How your workplace can help the #MeToo movement

29 March 2018

It can’t have escaped your notice that the #MeToo movement, which started at the end of 2017, doesn’t seem to be dying down any time soon, and for good reason.

Following the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood, millions of people worldwide have come forward on social media to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault. The women behind the movement were even named Person of the Year for 2017 by Time magazine.

 

Person-holding-metoo-sticker

The #MeToo campaign not only affects Tinseltown – it’s forced many businesses to question their own gender policies.

So, how can workplaces support its messages and promote gender equality?

Pay men and women the same for doing the same job

From April this year, UK companies with more than 250 staff will have to publish their pay gap figures1, although apparently two thirds of companies still have yet to do this.

While this doesn’t affect small firms directly, you should still ensure your own staff are paid equally for doing the same work. Just look at the problems already caused by the BBC’s salary disparities, with China editor Carrie Gracie resigning over the pay gap.

Set pay according to the job role, with a formal pay structure implemented to improve transparency.

Post gender-neutral job adverts

Only recently, a job advert was placed on Guardian Jobs by a recruitment company asking for someone who can cope with ‘male banter’2. Meanwhile, a Sydney bakery specifically asked for ‘male runners’3.

Obviously, job ads should be gender-neutral. You can help minimise bias in the selection process by introducing skills-based hiring and having at least two people involved in the interview process.

Challenge the barriers to career progression

The demands of raising children have long been thought to hold women back in the workplace, but there are initiatives that support those trying to juggle a career with a family.

  • Shared parental leave: Women can return to the workplace quicker after maternity leave, while dads who want to have an equal role in bringing up a family can spend more time at home.
  • Flexible working: Parents and carers can work at a time and a place to suit them. Those who don’t have children also value this way of working.
  • Coaching and mentoring: Women can be held back by a lack of self-confidence and role models, perhaps unsurprisingly given that the number of women holding the most senior jobs in the boardrooms of Britain’s biggest 100 companies has barely changed in the past 10 years (2007 – 2017)4. Introducing new training initiatives that encourage more women to go for managerial positions can help make boardrooms more equal.

As well as a diverse workforce being a good idea, it could also be critical for businesses going forward. Some bigger companies are challenging their suppliers on the subject, as shown when a communications firm was told that part of their pitch (15%) would be based on the firm being able to show its commitment to diversity and inclusion5.

Recognise that sexism is still very much alive

Think harassment and sexist attitudes aren’t an issue in your business? Although we’ve come a long way from the Mad Men era of the 1960s, no company is immune from gender imbalances, even in 2018. Acknowledging the problem may exist is the first step to tackling it.

Make sure your employees know you have measures in place to protect against inequality. Educate managers in discrimination and unconscious bias, and provide employees with an avenue for reporting sexual misconduct.

Nurture the next female entrepreneurs

While the number of women starting a business has soared by 45% in the three-year period between 2013 and 2016, compared with 2003 to 2006; men are still twice as likely as women to become entrepreneurs6. Indeed, two thirds of female business owners say they are not taken seriously by investors and banks when trying to secure funding for start-ups according to a recent poll by The Telegraph.

You can foster female talent at an early age. This could involve working with local schools and universities to create schemes for women who want to develop their own business ideas.

More work placements could also be offered to young women, particularly in under-represented areas such as engineering and manufacturing. This will enable the next generation of businesswomen to gain the management skills and confidence needed to compete equally in the corporate world.

  

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39502872
2. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/work/sexist-job-advert-asks-candidates-can-deal-male-banter/
3. https://thewest.com.au/news/7-news/the-job-ad-dividing-the-internet-bc-5640002506001
4. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/nov/08/senior-women-britains-boardrooms-unchanged-10-years
5. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/uk-companies-public-relations-gender-diversity-race-bame-pr-battle-attack-a8183731.html
6. Surge in female start-ups narrows ‘enterprise gap’, Aston University, July 2017 (cited in https://www.ft.com/content/6b27babc-607a-11e7-91a7-502f7ee26895)