This week I attended a great seminar titled “Supporting Women in the Workplace” which provided us with some interesting insights into the state of gender equality at work. With so many varying statistics, some positive, some negative and some slap bang in the middle of “there is hope yet”, it’s not hard to see why women can be confused about how they actually fit into the workplace.
And right off the bat I’d like to point out that this is in no way an attack on our male workforce. Some fantastic drives and campaigns focused on backing women in the workplace have been created by men, and of course in order for them to be a success we need everybody working towards the same goal. This is instead about building confidence in women and encouraging them to push that little bit harder and achieve that little bit more.
So after this week’s event, I decided to do a little research for myself, and came across some interesting facts.
“A third of Britain’s working mothers are the main earners in their family”
Positive news, right? Something that a fellow working mum like me can rejoice at?
Wrong. Dig a little deeper and you realise that most of this 2 million-strong group are still classified as low earners, who are likely over worked and under paid, which doesn’t translate to a substantial victory for women and mothers.
Inspired by what I felt like a false-positive, I kept investigating. “More mothers are working full time, according to the Office for National Statistics”. This means that more employers are taking note of the talent available to them, and realising they could actually have more talent on board if they offered a little flexibility - male or female. While I do read this as a positive, the statistics still show a minority-women workforce.
Women make up 47% of the UK workforce.
Perhaps then we need to focus on what happens before the world of work too. If you consider the fact that 63.6% of girls achieve 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C or equivalent, including English and Mathematics, compared to 54.2% of boys, it becomes clear that at least in terms of what level of education, there is a disparity between what each sex achieves and what each sex goes on to do with their achievements.
So where do all these clever ladies end up?
The unfortunate reality is that women have to wear many hats. If my employer (GCS Recruitment Specialists) didn’t offer me the flexibility to raise my child by arriving slightly later or leaving a little earlier here and there after nursery drop offs/pick-ups, (or my husband’s employer for that matter), I simply couldn’t manage both a career and a child.
This made me wonder. Globally, how much talent is sitting at home with their children, keen on the idea of work, but unable to hold down a role due the employment demands that could be alleviated by flexible working? Or working parents in the UK that are classified as low income because “business” roles with higher income & progression are not available for them to return to or even start at after raising children?
This is not only bad news for gender equality and unemployment rates, but our economy is potentially missing out of billions of pounds worth of business. The Women and Work Commission found that unleashing women’s full potential could be worth £23 billion a year to the Exchequer. That’s huge!
So, what can we be doing to ensure we stop missing out on a vast pool of untapped talent, revenue and equality?
The truth is, there is much more to be done, and no quick fix. But one thing is for certain – we have to start with us, as working women, to be advocates who understand the implications of a gender gap in the workplace.
We have to start to make changes within our companies, introducing the mind-set at the bottom, and working together to grow it across organisations in the hope of becoming one voice – one formed by men and women equally.
Taking this into consideration, we thought it would be a good idea to take a proactive approach in our workplace. Partnering with my Director, Lisa Forrester and our Marketing Executive, Leah Smith, we are putting together a “women in recruitment” forum for our employees. This will be aimed at tackling working environment issues, support and coaching for women and addressing ways of attracting more female talent.
I will also be talking at local universities to female business students to ensure them that there is nothing more satisfying than growing businesses and babies, and to be confident that with the right attitude you can do both.