Diversity in the workplace has long been seen as a myth the further up the management chain you go. In recent years, more and more women are moving further up the economic chain, which is making for a new wave of businesses, the majority being women-led companies, sometimes founded out of frustration that their skills were not being utilised in the best way.
The history of gender diversity in the workplace
Going back 20 or 30 years, women on the board of a company were nearly unheard of. Those who managed to break the “glass ceiling” were few and far between and it has taken years for companies to become more equal as far as female board members go. However, it does seem that things are getting better.
It has been widely reported that this year, for the first time ever, the number of women on the CITB board (Construction Industry Training Board) outnumbered men, but this is still a predominantly male based industry and the board is calling for more women to be encouraged to work in construction. The other issue women face is the gender pay gap.
We are more than 40 years on from the Equality Pay Act 1970, but women are still paid on average, 19.1% less than their male counterparts. Women do have other responsibilities outside of the workplace with childcare driving a lot of women to take part time roles for less money so they can combine work and motherhood.
The men (although now allowed paternity rights that are so much more equal) do not generally opt to have this break in their career and so no obstacles stop them continually building on their career. You will also see mothers taking on roles than are at a much lower level just to get the hours they need, but they are not being used to their full potential.
The push for diversity
The government has, over recent years, supported start-up funds, grants and loans for new businesses. This has made way for a new age of working mums – the female entrepreneur.
Women are, however, still a third less likely to start a new business compared to men. This has not always been due to lack of money but the lack of support for women in the workplace. Help from the government has come in the way of tax-free childcare, shared parental care and even an Employment Allowance. All of these factors have allowed women to ‘go it alone’ starting new businesses, adding and strengthening the UK economy.
Diversity in the workplace makes for a more inclusive business. Businesses with a mix of male and females will always work better. This is because they take natural talents from men and women and mix them to produce a business that works on the strengths of every member of staff.
Unfortunately, there are still companies out there that are still against women on boards or at senior levels but hopefully these types of companies are dying breeds. Diversity in the workplace is the way forward to continue growing the UK economy, utilising everyone – male and female – in the workplace to his or her full potential.