Will we live to see the end of the gender pay gap?

Chloe Chambraud, Gender Equality Director, Business in the Community, on how employers can work towards closing the gender pay gap in 2019
 
I hope that I will live long enough to see the gender gap close in my lifetime in the UK. At the current pace, it is estimated that it will take another 61 years. 
 
When it comes to gender equality, most of us tend to think that progress can only go one way: forward. The latest report published by the World Economic Forum shows that in fact this might not be the case. When looking at economic participation and opportunity, we are actually worse off than 12 years ago(i), with the UK losing 15 places and falling to the 52nd place – out of 149 countries – in 2018.
 
So, what can employers do in 2019 to accelerate the pace of change? 
 
1. Give men the opportunity to be the fathers they so desperately want to be
For too long, businesses have focused their efforts on progressing women in the workplace, whilst ignoring the pressures they face at home and the changing aspirations of men (see our Equal Lives report for recommendations and case studies). 
 
On the one hand, women are 13 times more likely than men to work part-time or to have given up work altogether because of caring responsibilities. In heterosexual couples with children, only half of women work full-time compared to 85% of men(ii) . On the other hand, 85% of men think that they should be as involved in all aspects of childcare as women(iii)

In 2019, women should not have to choose between caring and career. Employers, like Accenture or Aviva, which support men to be more involved at home through enhanced shared parental leave (SPL) will reap the benefits and attract the best talent. 

 
2. Forget the 9-5 and promote agile working wherever possible
The 9-5 schedule worked well for the last 150 years. That is, for men who had a partner at home to take care of children, elderly relatives and housework. But this inflexible system often forces women out of work. In the UK, a typical woman with a child below the age of seven reduces her working time by an average of 10 hours compared to a woman without any children(iv)
 
Three-fifths of businesses now equip the majority of employees with the ability to work remotely(v) and it is estimated that half of the UK workforce will be working remotely by 2020. Agile working can provide a great avenue to access work for parents or carers unable to commit to full-time roles and it benefits everyone.
 
The HR professionals I talk to regularly are unanimous: expectations have changed and millennials – with or without families – now expect flexible working, with a third preferring flexible working to a pay rise(vii). It is time to give up our old habits (one-person one-desk, telephones attached to desks, and face-to-face meetings) and to invest in technology and training that will enable employees to work more flexibly. 
 
3. Upskill or reskill women to ensure an inclusive digital revolution
We have heard a lot about the gender pay gap in 2018. But what about the gender tech gap? In the UK, only 20% of AI professionals are women, compared to an average of 22% globally(viiii) .This trend is worrying since AI skills gender gap may exacerbate gaps in economic participation, opportunity and pay. Moreover, it means that most of our algorithms are being designed by young, white men and are not serving the needs of society at large.
 
By 2022, women will still only represent 30% of the UK’s digital workforce(ix). This talent gap in advanced technologies requires focused intervention. We need more reskilling and upskilling programmes to tackle these disparities. Sky, our 2018 Game Changer Award Winner created ‘Get into Tech’ to teach women the skills to begin a career in tech. This 15-week evening course is accessible to those who want to learn flexibly in their own. It is free, open to women with no previous technical experience and support through Skype is offered if needed. 
 
The evidence consistently shows that when it comes to gender-equality being a progressive, forward-thinking business is better for the bottom line. We cannot continue to miss out on half of the country’s talent by failing to close these gaps. By shifting the burden of unpaid care from women’s shoulders, embracing agile working wherever possible, and upskilling their female workforce, employers can demonstrate that they really are the employers of the future.  
 
References and links 

[i] https://weforum.org/reports/the-global-gender-gap-report-2018
[ii] https://eige.europa.eu/gender-equality-index/2015/domain/work/UK#table
[iii] https://gender.bitc.org.uk/system/files/research/equal_lives_reportv2september2018-compressed.pdf
[iv] https://www.ippr.org/files/publications/pdf/women-and-flexible-working_Dec2014.pdf
[v] https://www.vodafone.co.uk/cs/groups/public/documents/webcontent/vftst162224.pdf
[vi] https://www.thehrdirector.com/features/flexible-working/half-workforce-will-work-remotely-2020/
[vii] https://www.recruitment-international.co.uk/blog/2018/02/70-percent-of-millennials-want-flexible-working-options-research-finds
[viii] https://weforum.org/reports/the-global-gender-gap-report-2018

[ixhttps://www.bitc.org.uk/sites/default/files/a_brave_new_world_bitc_accenture_report_november_2016.pdf