How to improve gender equality in the workplace – a useful guide

Suggested actions for employers
How to improve gender equality in the workplace – a useful guide

It’s no secret that diversity can have many benefits for organisations. Many studies and researches conducted over the last few years have provided evidence that diverse views and perspectives lead to better decision-making and creativity.

The Behavioural Insights Team recently wrapped-up a large-scale ‘Gender and Behavioural Insights’ (GABI) research programme, in collaboration with the Government Equalities Office, to investigate what works to improve gender equality in the workplace and published a Guide with some interesting insights and suggested actions for employers.

For instance, they found that unconscious bias training does not change attitudes in the long-term, and can even backfire, but a  simple change to the way jobs are advertised can boost applications from women by 16%.

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Based on both a thorough sift of the academic literature, and their own results from trials, they have identified a list of actions that have been shown to improve outcomes for gender equality, but also actions that need more evidence before they can be recommended as widespread approaches.

Leadership & Accountability

The Behavioural Insights Team highlights the key role that leaders play in driving gender equality in their organisations. The first concrete thing leaders can do is to set specific, ambitious targets. The second thing is to create strong accountability mechanisms to ensure that every hiring manager and people manager feels accountable for diversity outcomes in their team.

Effective actions 

  • Set internal targets for gender representation and equality.
  • Appoint diversity leads and/or diversity task forces.

Hiring & Selection

Unconscious bias and stereotypes can creep in at various stages of the hiring and selection process, reducing the chances that an employer hires the best candidate for the job.

Effective actions

  • Offer flexible working by default in job adverts.
  • Use structured interviews for recruitment and promotions.
  • Use skill-based assessment tasks in recruitment.
  • Make expectations around salaries and negotiation clear.

Promising actions 

  • Use targeted referrals.
  • Remove biased language from job adverts.
  • Recruit returners.
  • Anonymise CVs.
  • Make it possible to list experience in terms of years not dates in CVs.
  • Include more women in shortlists for recruitment and promotions.
  • Make decisions about applicants in batches.

Mixed evidence

  • Diversity statements
  • Diverse selection panels

Talent Management, Learning & Development

Many organisations invest heavily in learning and development, including unconscious bias and diversity training programmes. Unfortunately there is little evidence suggesting that these are an effective way to change behaviour.

Instead, the Behavioural Insights Team recommends employers to focus on transparency across all processes and enabling women to access opportunities at equal rates to men. They also encourage tracking the effectiveness of other initiatives, such as networking programmes, mentoring or sponsorship schemes.

Effective action

  • Increase transparency to promotion, pay and reward processes.

Promising actions

  • Request ‘advice’ for actionable ways to improve instead of ‘feedback’ on past performance.
  • Offer mentoring and sponsorship.
  • Offer networking programmes.

Mixed evidence

  • Performance self-assessments
  • Unconscious bias training
  • Diversity training
  • Leadership development training exclusively for women

Workplace Flexibility

Flexible working arrangements and generous parental leave policies are increasingly important in attracting the best talent. It is important for employers to ‘walk the talk’ and ensure that take up of these policies is genuinely encouraged throughout the organisation.

Effective action

  • Share local support for parental leave and flexible working.

Promising actions

  • Improve workplace flexibility for men and women.
  • Encourage the uptake of Shared Parental Leave.

You can read the full report here: https://bit.ly/3E9cfTc

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