Image from: International Women's Day 2021
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChoosetoChallenge. This is a call not just to women, but to people of any gender to challenge the barriers to gender equality in society, wherever they exist, and to use any privilege or influence they may have to further the cause of gender equality.
Some will point to this past year as showing signs for optimism. We saw the US elect its first female vice-president. Also, despite only 22 countries around the globe having female leaders, a large percentage of these countries have demonstrated high performance in terms of the management of the COVID-19 pandemic (examples being New Zealand, Taiwan, Germany, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Bangladesh, to name a few).
Despite these positives, the overwhelming picture this past year is still a depressing one for women. Globally the pandemic has had a more negative impact upon women, and in the UK we have seen a similar outcome, some terming the effect of the pandemic a “she-cession”. The nature of female employment (the likelihood of part-time or zero-hours work) and the sectors in which women dominate have made them particularly vulnerable. Women were also more likely than men to have been burdened with childcare during the pandemic and to have lost work.
We went into the pandemic with high levels of gender inequality, the pandemic has exacerbated this inequality and so if we want to build back better, we must re-double our efforts around gender equality. For real change to happen, there has to be major efforts at all levels; individual, family, employment, government and societal.
In terms of employment, if employers want to advance gender equality, they need to build it into their strategy. This includes:
- Creating an environment where there is diversity and inclusion
- Enhancing their flexible working practices
- Providing opportunities for female voice within the organisation
- Reviewing their general policies, including recruitment practices, to ensure they are not directly or indirectly discriminatory
- Ensuring pay processes are transparent
- Offering relevant training or mentoring programmes
Our experienced employment lawyers can assist your organisation to overcome any barriers to gender equality . Please do not hesitate to get in contact with our employment law team for further details of the support and advice we offer.