It's been an interesting year for women in business and gender diversity in Ireland, and internationally. There have been many initiatives, events and proposals for new legislation to lessen the gender gap and strengthen women's rights in and out of the workplace - all welcome developments.
The emphasis on gender equality across politics, economic participation, education and health is strengthening and it makes good moral and good business sense to challenge the status quo and bring about gender equality at work.
According to the World Economic Forum, the global gender pay gap currently stands at 32% compared to 31.7% last year. However, in the last two years, there has been a significant and refreshing cultural shift.
Movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have created a wider awareness about serious harassment issues and given a platform to survivors all over the world. The significant increase in awareness has also influenced 48% of companies to review the gender pay gap within their business.
The Irish government is also about to take a leap forward in parallel to this. Ireland is set to make it mandatory for companies to report gender pay gaps to increase transparency for wage differences between genders.
As a result, businesses are now refocusing on how they can narrow the gap in their organisations and why there was a gap in the first place.
Unfamiliar with the current state of the Gender Gap in Ireland?
We recently wrote a whitepaper on the topic which discusses why the Gap exists and what can be done about it. Here are 6 key takeaways:
The Gender Gap in Ireland: what the numbers are saying
Ireland has seen its gender pay gap widen from 12% in 2014 to 14% in late 2017 [Click to Tweet]
Even though women received more tertiary degrees than men, according to Central Statistics Office figures, the gender pay gap in Ireland has widened by 2% in 2017.
By contrast, Belgium have been closing the gap rapidly in recent years - from 13.6 in 2000, to 7 per cent in 2010 and 3.3 per cent in 2017.This is mainly due to the government's emphasis on policy to move towards equal pay and strict frameworks for salary.
The Belgians are now one of the leading counties in the EU for tackling the gender pay gap, so hopefully this impending legislation will be Ireland's catalyst for even more initiatives to lead the charge.
In Ireland, women occupy 40% of junior management positions and only 17% of CEOs are female [Click to Tweet]
According to a survey from the 30% Club and DCU, women hold 40% of positions at the lowest level of management surveyed, with this proportion decreasing at each level of seniority, falling to 17% of CEO positions.
When we look at the global figures, in 2017, women accounted for 17% of corporate board members and 12% of executive committee members in the top 50 listed G20 companies.
Tackling this disparity in workforce participation and equality has become a major talking point when it comes to closing the gender gap. Female representation in government, the legal system and educational institutions also needs to be considered when looking for solutions.
Only 25% of those working in Ireland's science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries are women [Click to Tweet]
According to the Central Statistics Office, women are grossly underrepresented within manufacturing, IT, engineering and skilled trades. In fact, women represent just 25% of the STEM industry.
Companies need to focus on increasing female labour participation as well as nurturing the employees they already have if they are to navigate the skills gap successfully.
Upskilling high potential applicants and staff, offering more flexible working arrangements, or helping people progress within their organisation, can help prevent drop off.
67% of Irish employers are concerned about the risk to their reputation once they go public with their pay rates [Click to Tweet]
According to Mercer, 34% of employers are worried that their gender pay gap is worse than the national average.
As a result, we are seeing an increased allocation of budget towards tackling the issue and preparing for the future of work. For example, businesses that budget �50,000 under this heading increased from 9% last year to 15% this year, with most of the money going into events and sponsorship.
50% of companies support the Government's proposed regulation, but 70% of companies haven't even begun to examine their own gender pay gaps [Click to Tweet]
From these statistics from Mercer, it's evident that a lot of businesses in Ireland have yet to take the proposed regulation seriously.
Publishing gender pay figures is a positive initiative that will help highlight areas for improvement and give stakeholders a benchmark to work from. It also has the positive benefit of fostering awareness among young women that certain subjects, such as those needed for STEM careers, lead to higher salaries.
Female employment in Ireland is roughly equal until there is a permanent drop-off between the ages of 29 and 39.7, according to IBEC [Click to Tweet]
One explanation for this drop off is the division of labour in the home. One person focuses on their career while the other carries out the bulk of the household tasks - which only serves to reinforce the pay gap and inequity.
According to McKinsey, women with children and partners are 5.5 times more likely to do all or most of the household work than men in the same family situation.
The role of companies is crucial in tackling this. For example, Pharmaceutical company MSD is offering flexible paternity leave - enabling dads to work from home or only work a certain number of days each month. This allows them to share the workload at home while also maintaining a presence at work.
PwC empowers its staff to take a leave of absence for 16 consecutive weeks for parental leave or other reasons. They can then transition back into work without it negatively impacting on their career.
Encouraging and enabling fathers to fulfil more of their parental obligations gives mothers more opportunities in the workplace.
What can businesses do now?
The emphasis on gender equality and the upcoming gender gap legislation is encouraging positive change - but the onus for change shouldn't lie solely with the government.
Employers can influence change. Starbucks achieved 100% gender pay parity in 2018 for all employees in similar roles. The company has banned the 'current salary' question from hiring practices to avoid importing gender pay inequity into its culture.
Companies need to accept responsibility and encourage diversity and inclusion through offering more flexibility, encouraging parental leave and improving hiring and retention policies.
If you're unsure how to prepare your business for the gender gap legislation get in touch with one of our Future of Work specialists, or download our free whitepaper: 'The Gender Gap: Why is it happening and what can we do about it?'