Gender equality in the workplace – How to tell if your employer gets it


New legislation spreading throughout the EU requires mandatory reporting on gender pay gaps in companies with over a given number of employees.
Predictably, this has sparked debate about workplace gender equality and the gender pay gap, centring on what causes the gap and whether it – in its entirety – is worth actively correcting. Given that most ‘employers’ contributing to this debate fall into the older, white male category, opinions being aired can often take the form of blaming women for their own lack of equality, and arguing in favour of meritocracy. On the other side, there are employers who are whole heartedly in favour of gender equality and pay parity, but can lack clarity on the meaning and causes of the problem.

This is yet another time when female employees tend to nod along with their older, white male bosses – listening to the spiel of chatter about how much this particular office fosters equality. They may even, with a lack of awareness around the intricacies of what they say, claim that their own business is in no way part of the problem. Here are the ways to tell whether your workplace really does foster gender equality.

Money, Money, Money.
If you got the average of the male salaries in the company, and then the average of the female salaries, who would come out on top? Would there be stark difference? Yes, probably. This applies to everywhere. What matters is the attitude – ultimately, you don’t want to work somewhere that thinks that women earn less because we don’t work as hard or we don’t naturally fit the bill for a high earner. Similarly, if the company’s stance is that it’s not their fault, and that men just so happen to earn more, get out now. You don’t want to work somewhere with no appreciation for the social circumstances that lead to the gender pay gap.

Look Up.
Seniority matters. It’s not enough for an employer or company to claim that they have an equal gender balance – they have to take level into account. Sure, they might have 50% women, but what if all of those women are concentrated at the bottom of the ladder – or what if they stop moving upward at a glaringly obvious level? Hasn’t this company ever heard of the glass ceiling?

Count the Kids.
Women leaving a business to have kids and, eventually, never returning is a tell-tale sign of a work place with an equality issue. This one is a little less obvious, and also a little less explicit. It’s a trend that grows over time. One after another, women get married and start families – the same as the men at the company – only the difference is that the men stay there, and the women leave. These women don’t leave to become homemakers, they leave to work somewhere that allows them to fulfil the social duty of motherhood. Look for companies with a lack of women over the age of 35, and with men in that age group to spare.

Look Who’s Talking.
Meetings, conference calls and brainstorming sessions are great places to analyse your current place of employment. Who’s doing the talking, who is being listened to, and why. Sometimes this means nothing, like when there is only one American at the table they dominate the enthusiasm levels, but sometimes the overshadowing of male voices in the room is significant. Trust your gut. Work somewhere where female voices are valued.

The Big Boy Table.
All the talk of corporate governance, and what have we learned? Something, I hope. How an organisation, big or small, is governed and ruled set the precedent for everything else that goes one. Who’s at the adult table? Are those board meetings even 30% female? And if they are, does the top dog realise that this isn’t enough – are they striving for 50%?

Treat You Like a Lady.
Are you treated like a lady, or a valued member of the team? By that, I mean – do people say things to you that they might not say if you were one of the boys? Do they treat you with the same levels of professionalism, and respect? Watch out for this both in the workplace and at the next social. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable with mild sexual harassment, or belittles you because you’re just a girl, take note – because if it’s ingrained in the culture it’s not going to stop.