Why gender equality isn’t just for International Women’s Day

Raising the profile of women in the workplace

Raising the profile of women in the workplace

Sunday 8th March 2015 was International Women’s Day, and Green Hotelier is turning attention to all issues regarding women in the workplace and particularly the hotel industry. Here, Laura Cooney of Business in the Community’s Opportunity Now programme explains why gender equality is an issue we all need to take note of.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #makeithappen – ‘encouraging effective action for recognising and advancing women’. Whilst there has been a lot of good news about workplace gender equality recently, with the UK for example climbing four places in the Women and Work Index this week, there is still much more that needs to be done – and whilst International Women’s Day can be a great catalyst for this activity, it shouldn’t be the only time that businesses think about this.

Opportunity Now has produced a Women & Work infographic, covering issues including workplace bullying and harassment (experienced by one in ten women), and conflicting responsibilities both at and outside work – 62% of women feel pressure to succeed at work and home, and 43% believe flexible working would help counteract the stress this causes. Yet often flexible working is still stigmatised, with women who responded to Opportunity Now’s Project 28-40 survey saying that flexible workers within their organisations are less likely to progress at the same rate as their peers, regarded as less committed and even resented by colleagues.

Pay is also a pressing issue for women’s progression at work. Recently the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Great Britain published a list of the 10 lowest paid jobs in the UK, all of which were in sectors where women were over-represented. Women are also three times more likely to be working part-time than men, and 27% of women earn less than the living wage compared to their male counterparts. This seriously damages women’s earning potential and may leave many women trapped in a cycle of in-work poverty – only a fifth of low-paid workers have escaped low pay ten years later. Meanwhile, the gender pay gap still stands at 9.4 per cent for men and women in full-time work, widening to 19.1% for all employees. Yet unleashing the full potential of women in the UK workplace could be worth £23 billion to the Exchequer.

Because we believe women’s success at work is good for business and society, Opportunity Now works with over 200 public and private sector organisations to accelerate change for women in the workplace. Our recent activity includes the Inclusive Leadership Excellence Club, an action research programme with five organisations which developed a Five-Point Framework to help employers develop and imbed inclusive leadership. We also carry out an annual Gender and Race Benchmark along with the Race for Opportunity campaign, which 114 organisations participated in last year – a 70 per cent increase since 2012. Finally, our Opportunity Now Excellence in Practice Awards recognise employers and individuals from all sectors who are leading on this agenda and showcase best practice.

Marking International Women’s Day, we want employers to celebrate the women within their organisation and in the wider communities where they operate, and Opportunity Now has produced a toolkit to support them in doing just that. But we also want them to take forward the International Women’s Day messages into their workplace putting it at the core of the organisation and showing they take workplace gender equality seriously. Because workplace gender equality is not just for International Women’s Day, but for every day of the year.

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Several ITP members are working hard to improve opportunities for women in the workplace and we will be showcasing some of their activities. Don’t forget to vote in our poll to have your say on which initiatives could have the biggest impact on women working in the hotel industry.

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