19p short of the 19th Amendment: Celebrating Women’s (almost) Equality Day

Welcome to Women’s Equality Day!

Today marks the day in 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was certified as law, and women in the USA were granted the right to vote. 

In the 95 years that have passed, women’s rights and freedoms have increased immeasurably – but not completely. Fragments of the ‘glass ceiling’ still stubbornly refuse to shift, and perhaps the most persistent among them is the gender pay gap.

In fact, it remains so problematic that last month, the UK Government launched an open consultation to seek views on how to close it within a generation. The average pay gap in the UK at present is 19.1% – meaning that for every £1 earned by a man working for a UK employer, women are earning only 81p. In the USA, the gap is even wider, with research by the White House finding that women earn on average only 77 cents to every dollar earned by a man.

Though this may seem archaic, what’s even more troubling – though ostensibly good news – is the fact that this is the smallest pay gap between genders ever recorded.

Unequal pay for the same role has been illegal in the UK since the Equal Pay Act of 1976, but the problem pertains in that a higher proportion of women remain in lower status – and thus lower paid – positions than men. Incredibly, there are more men named John in CEO or chair positions of FTSE 100 companies than there are women combined.

On the upside, however, the gap has now completely closed between full time male and female workers under the age of 40 – showing a definite change in the way the workforce looks as millennials continue to make their presence felt.

And the ways in which millennials have, and continue to change the structure and functions of organizations could hold the key to closing the gender pay gap once and for all.

In particular, flexible working could provide a serious boost to women’s earning potential. As we mentioned in our recent blog on the London tube strikes, with employees increasingly turning to working from smartphones, and the 9-5 becoming a thing of the past, greater provision for flexible working practices could have a substantial impact in engaging and retaining the next generation. It could be equally instrumental in accelerating women to more senior positions, as women are twice more likely to work flexibly than men. But with only 6% of top jobs offering flexible working, those opportunities are simply not available to a huge proportion of the workforce.

For businesses then, rethinking the approach to the basics of employee experience and being more open to modern workforce practices could offer enormous rewards. Analytics, too, are fundamental to exposing the gaps that exist between individual employees’ experiences, and ensuring all are protected and progressed sufficiently to keep top talent within the business.

Being more sensitive to the needs of a constantly evolving modern workforce and adapting to meet those needs can only be of benefit – both for business, and for breaking through the boundaries that still exist not just for women but all over the workplace.

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