How to improve women’s equality in the workplace

In honour of Women's Equality Day 2021, female tech leaders reflect on the ways to improve workplace inclusion

After a year of turmoil worldwide, it seems more important than ever to highlight occasions such as Women’s Equality Day. The pandemic put the world on hold, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to pause the progress needed to create true equity in the workplace between the genders.

“As some countries look towards post-pandemic recovery, it is also crucial that organisations provide targeted leadership development training designed to help women overcome gender biases and succeed in the most senior roles,” explains Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft. “If society is to bounce back stronger than before, we must work toward closing this crucial gap and doing all we can to support female leaders.”

And whilst this change must be fostered by organisations, it is key that women and men don’t stop pushing for this progress in the workplace. Layla Marshall, Director of Product & Marketing at Ascent, demonstrates how advice from women already in senior roles can be invaluable to those starting on the career ladder. “If I could summarise my working experience into three words of advice, they would be these: Hold. Your. Nerve. It’s too easy to start to question your judgment and vision or feel like an imposter when your experiences – professional, cultural or gender-based – are different from the majority of people in the room. Conviction is magnetic.”

Women in leadership

One of the areas in which change is rapidly needed within the workplace is in senior leadership roles. The reality is that women still occupy just under 35% of senior roles in the leading 350 FTSE UK businesses.

Women still struggle with significant underrepresentation in the tech industry, highlighting Caroline Seymour, VP of Product Marketing at Zerto. “There are numerous positions that need to be filled, so why aren’t they being filled with qualified women? It’s been proven that diverse teams boost performance and bring fresh ideas to the table. If companies strive for innovation and growth, then progressive hiring is the way to accomplish those goals.”

Nowakowska echoes this sentiment. She describes: “Women need to be given opportunities to move up the ladder, using their skills and experience to take their well-deserved sears at the top table.”

The pandemic has seemingly exacerbated this issue with women facing furlough and job losses more than men, notes Mini Biswas, Pre-Sales Manager at Node4. “Shockingly, women in tech are nearly twice as likely as men to have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the pandemic. A common reason cited for this figure is childcare – by putting mothers on furlough, they were freed of childcare worries whilst juggling their work responsibilities. This makes it clear that women are disadvantaged in the workplace – men were not furloughed due to childcare duties. Other ways working mothers could be supported without a furloughed year off work and the missed opportunities to develop and progress that come with that. 45% of working mothers said they were currently working below their experience and pay grade to fit work around school hours. Women should not be denied promotions due to a lack of childcare options. Again, men are not held back by their children’s needs.”

Closing the gender pay gap

Probably the most talked-about issue regarding women’s equality in the workplace is one that persists to plague almost every industry, namely the gender pay gap. Caroline Seymour explains the importance of addressing pay inequality.

“Women make nearly 20% less than men and aren’t expected to reach pay equity until 2059. That’s unacceptable, and it highlights that simply hiring women is not enough. Employers need to appreciate women’s contribution to the workforce and put their money where their mouth is. When that happens, the rewards are substantial.”

Whilst this problem exists across the country, Biswas discusses the extremities of the issue within London specifically. “London has the largest gender pay gap with men earning over 30% more than women.” Despite the vastness of this problem, Marshall also argues that this has created opportunities that must be seized: “As mercenary as it sounds, gender is currency right now and businesses that are seeking to create a more equal gender balance are offering great salaries, more flexible benefits, and good opportunities to learn and develop.”

What does the future hold?

“My hope for other women in tech is not only to take an active role in your own career but also focus on connecting and building relationships with other women,” says Michelle Fitzgerald, Director of Demand Gen and Events at Plutora. “Building connections, seeking out a mentor, or becoming a mentor yourself are all rewarding ways to continue to grow, learn and lead. We can all benefit from building relationships that challenge us and help us to thrive personally and professionally.”

Seymour adds: “We want more women to pursue a career in the tech industry, and having these conversations will help. So for those considering it, I say, go for it. Move forward confidently and pursue it wholeheartedly. Even the most qualified person will walk into their job and make a mistake, and the reality is that mistakes help you learn and grow and are instrumental to success.”

“Our sector is vibrant, flourishing, and incredibly creative – but that’s not always easy to see from the outside,” Marshall furthers. “One obvious response to this is to create opportunities that enable individuals to experience this first hand, through increased graduate and undergraduate placement options, and better, more visible role modelling by existing industry leaders.”

It is important to plan and figure out how this change and growth can be achieved. Nowakowska suggests, “organisations can help rectify this balance by reviewing employee benefits and enhancing areas important to women; directing more resources to hiring, developing, and advancing women in the workplace; and providing training and tools for women to grow competencies for the most in-demand opportunities.”

The results of this change will, without a doubt, be significant. Biswas highlights that “research shows that if women were fully utilised in the UK economy, there could be £150 billion added to the economy by 2030 – yes, that’s right. Read this again!”

“At the end of the day, Women’s Equality Day is about uplifting each other and making sure all women have the tools and opportunities to succeed,” Fitzgerald concludes. “Trust your intuition, seek out the resources you need, and find the connections that drive you forward.”
Rate This: