Effective strategies to improve gender balance in the workplace

The workplace gender gap still very much exists, which means companies need to be taking proactive measures like addressing unconscious biases, ensuring pay equity, and creating an inclusive culture to achieve gender equality. In this article, we'll cover the most effective strategies to improve gender balance in the workplace.

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The workplace gender gap is not a new issue, and yet it continues to persist. According to CIPD analysis, for every pound a man earns in the UK, a woman earns approximately 91 pence. This is a decrease from the 9.7% recorded the year before, but unfortunately matches the gender pay gap reported in 2017/18, so it's hard to say much improvement has been seen.

Globally, fewer women are in the labour force than men, with the current parity at 64%. How do these stats all relate to each other and why is this important at your company? Women have fewer opportunities for expansion or career progression, and this leads to a gap in senior positions. Without opportunities, women tend to leave the workforce earlier than men. When women do work, they tend to earn less. Retaining and attracting women, especially women in leadership roles, is incredibly important.

Creating a balanced workplace isn't just a tick-box exercise—it's about building a culture of gender equality where everyone thrives. Here's how you can get started on fostering gender diversity and breaking down barriers for female employees.

1. Understand gender bias

Gender bias is favouritism towards, or prejudice against, a particular gender. To truly tackle gender inequality, it's essential to recognise and address gender bias. Unconscious biases can sneak into performance reviews, hiring processes, and everyday interactions, perpetuating gender stereotypes and creating gender inequity and barriers to career progression. Start with unconscious bias training for your team to help your employees recognise their own biases and encourage fairer, more equitable practices.

2. Close the gender pay gap

The gender pay gap is a persistent issue, with women often earning less than their male counterparts for the same roles. Ignorance is not an excuse. As a company, you should be regularly analysing your gender pay gap data and implementing transparent pay structures. Make sure that pay increases and bonuses are based on objective performance metrics, and communicate openly about salary details and ranges to your employees. This also helps with employee retention and reduces employee turnover because if you're not paying equitably, other companies will!

3. Promote gender equality

Creating an equitable workplace requires intentional changes in your recruitment process. Build a gender-diverse candidate pipeline by crafting inclusive job descriptions, making sure the language you use throughout your comms and assets is inclusive, and ensuring diverse representation on interview panels. Job candidates should feel welcome from the beginning of the process. An inclusive company culture attracts a broad talent pool.

4. Support career progression

Women in leadership roles are still underrepresented. To change this, you need to be providing equal access to development opportunities, mentorship programmes, and leadership training. Highlight and celebrate the achievements of all leaders, and ensure women have a voice in decision-making processes. This not only supports their career progression but also sets a powerful example for others.

5. Implement flexible work arrangements

Flexible hours and work arrangements are crucial for supporting gender parity because life doesn't stop when you're at work. People might have caregiving responsibilities, or they might need to work from home for various reproductive health challenges and doctor's appointments, or anything else in their personal lives. If you want to boost employee engagement, you need to be supporting your employees' needs so that they can focus whilst at work. Offer parental leave options that are inclusive of all gender identities, sexual orientations and family structures, and promote policies that accommodate various personal needs. This helps reduce career interruptions and supports a more balanced, inclusive workplace culture.

This all starts with a great policy. If you're looking for inspiration on how to create a Women's Health policy at your company, check out our template here

6. Cultivate an inclusive and collaborative workplace culture

An inclusive culture is the backbone of a gender-balanced workplace. Actively involve employees from all gender identities in creating policies, like the Women's Health one mentioned above, and initiatives that promote gender equity. Address gender-based discrimination head-on and foster an environment where everyone feels safe, valued, and supported. Getting feedback from your employees on the policies you've put in place ensures that they're actually doing what they're meant to do, which is supporting the needs of your employees. This will boost employee engagement overall at your company.

7. Track and share progress

Regularly monitor your progress on closing the workplace gender gap. Share gender pay gap data and other relevant metrics with your team to maintain transparency and accountability. Celebrate successes and identify areas for improvement, making sure that your efforts are always aligned with your goal of achieving gender parity.

8. Implement benefits that actually help

As with the policies, your employees want benefits that will actually support them. Reproductive health challenges can have a big impact on your employees' lives, which extends to their working lives as well. We know that 40% of people experiencing high levels of pain from menstruation choose to work through it and 39% of people experiencing menopause-related challenges reported working through their symptoms too, nearly doubling from 20% in 2023.

Menopause can have a significant impact on women’s professional lives, especially those in senior positions. Research shows that two-thirds of women experiencing menopausal symptoms report a mostly negative impact on their work. Without adequate support, these experienced employees might consider early retirement or leaving the workforce altogether, which is a huge loss for any company.

Working through any reproductive health challenges can lead to employee burnout, decreased employee engagement, and decreased job satisfaction as a whole. Implementing reproductive health benefits shows your employees that you support them fully, and it opens up the space for more transparency and trust. This in turn helps lessen the current gender gap as it allows for more diverse groups of people with diverse needs to work for your company.

9. Break down gender stereotypes

Challenge and break down gender stereotypes that limit opportunities for all employees. Promote a culture where skills and contributions are valued over gender expectations. By doing so, you'll create a more dynamic, innovative workplace where everyone can reach their full potential.

10. Create a gender-diverse leadership team

It's no secret that diverse leadership teams bring varied perspectives and ideas, driving better decision-making and innovation. Strive for gender diversity at the top, ensuring that women and other minority gender identities have equal opportunities to lead and influence.

If you're looking for even more guidance on promoting gender equality in the workplace, check out this article.

Improving gender balance and reducing the workplace gender gap is a continuous journey that requires commitment, transparency, and active involvement from everyone in the organisation. By addressing gender biases, promoting equitable practices, and fostering an inclusive culture, you can create a workplace where everyone has the opportunity to succeed and thrive.

If you're interested in implementing reproductive health benefits at your company, give us a call using the button below. We'd love to chat 💜