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07-11-2016

Gender Equality in HR

Gender Equality in HR

The gender pay gap in the UK has been decreasing. On average women working the same jobs as men are getting paid the same amount. So are men and women finally on equal footing when it comes to pay and career progression? Well, it would seem that there’s still some way to go.

Family Issues

For many managers, the thought of paying a woman less for doing the same work as a man is ludicrous but that's what’s happening up and down the country. The problems start when female employees take  career breaks to start a family or care for elderly relatives.

Women aged 22-39 in the UK earn equal or even more on average than men, but at 40 this parity drops off significantly. This is down to the fact women take time off work in their thirties to start a family. When women come back into work they don’t receive the same opportunities as their male counterparts or even women who aren’t mothers.

A recent survey suggests that the UK ranks 11th out of eighteen European countries that took part when it comes to gender equality. The study was carried out on working mothers and was based on studies of the gender pay gap and board members. Over the last few years, the UK has improved with equality but it still has some way to go to catch up to survey leaders Sweden.

But it isn’t just the pay gap that affects new mothers. Many women feel that when they return to work after maternity leave, the roles they return to don’t have as much responsibility as they ought to have.  They are made to feel like a junior member of the team compared to men and women who haven’t taken career breaks.

Is the Gap Widening?

A new report by the World Economic Forum has revealed that it will take 170 years to close the gender pay gap. This is an increase on last year when they reported that it would take 118 years. The report measures differences between men and women across four areas: health, education, economy and politics.

The report covers 144 countries with Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Rwanda making up the top five while the UK currently sits in 20th. The UK has been slipping down the rankings and is now at the same position it was at in the height of recession in 2008. The drop in rankings isn’t down to the fact that the UK is getting worse across the four areas but other countries are taking strides to improve whereas the UK has stalled. In the eleven years that the report has been carried out, the gender pay gap has only decreased by four percent.

Human Resources

Human resources departments are predominantly populated by woman. This is often thought to be down to the typical route taken to get into HR. Many HR staff come up through the ranks of administrative roles, a role that's been dominated by women. HR departments need to practice what they preach and start to reduce the inequality.

Adhering to quotas is only a short term fix. There needs to be a drastic cultural shift to ensure that women in the workplace are treated as equally as their male counterparts and having children shouldn’t be seen as a sacrifice.

STEM Subjects

There is still gender discrimination in the UK workplace and this often starts at a young age. Subconsciously girls are dissuaded from going into fields such as engineering and other technical roles. These are roles that have predominantly been filled by men and there isn’t enough encouragement for girls to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)in school and university.

It’s clear that more needs to be done in this country to bridge the gender pay divide. Things are heading in the right direction but schools, universities and employers need to take a more active role and encourage girls and women to follow the career paths they’re interested in, not just those they feel they ought to follow.

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