WISE the campaign for greater gender balance has urged employers, particularly those working in science, engineering, technology and manufacturing (STEM), to keep inclusion on their agenda in these difficult times, highlighting that diversity brings more significant innovation.
Helen Wollaston, WISE’s chief executive, says: “There is plenty of evidence to prove that diversity of thought fuels innovation. In the crisis we now face, we need rapid and creative solutions to help us through, let’s seize the opportunity to draw on the talents of everyone in our organisations, men and women in partnership, bringing our unique and diverse contributions.
“Not only will this help us all in the short-term, but it will also make a profound and lasting difference for generations to come.”
The organisation is also advising employers to consider carefully the difficult decisions that they are currently taking in terms of layoffs, recruitment, secondments and promotion, asking them to think about the capability needed in the future as well as the skills and experience needed today. The advice follows the Government’s decision to suspend this year’s gender pay gap reporting.
Businesses originally due to report on their gender pay gap in the coming weeks for the year ending 2019/20, have been given respite to put all their efforts into managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Helen says: “While I fully understand the need to remove regulatory burdens on business at this time of crisis, the underlying causes of the gender pay gap won’t go away. We need to keep our eye on the ball to avoid losing ground that has been so hard won – in terms of giving women genuine equality of opportunity in the workplace. Indeed, Fawcett Society research found that after the 2008 recession, the gender pay gap increased.”
WISE is also asking employers to share their experience of working from home, highlighting the potential it has to transform lives. Since 2014, the organisation has been encouraging employers to offer flexible working as part of their industry-led Ten Steps programme to improve gender diversity in STEM.
Helen says: “It isn’t all doom and gloom – the lockdown has forced organisations to adopt home working, sweeping away the old objections which have prevented women and others with caring responsibilities from making the most of their potential at work.
“If we capture the learning of how we are keeping things going, while so many of us are working from home, it could transform the world of work for the benefit of all.”
Helen concludes: “In the current unprecedented crisis, those with the least power, privilege and money are the most vulnerable. In our gendered labour market, it is often women who risk losing their job, put their health at risk, shoulder the burden of caring responsibilities and slip through nets of provisions put in place by the Government. If we allow this to happen, the human and societal cost will be significant and have a long-term negative impact on us all.”