The key areas we need to focus on for maximum impact on gender equality

A Global Institute for Women’s Leadership webinar yesterday heard of the need for campaigners to focus on pushing employers and governments for change in key areas if we are to change the dial on gender equality.

equal pay with gender sign instead of the 'q'


The rate of progress on gender equality seems to have slowed in recent years so we need to prioritise key areas which will have maximum impact, a webinar heard yesterday.

These include gender pay gap reporting, adequate paid leave for more equal sharing of caring responsibilities and policies for flexible working, according to the webinar hosted by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College [GIWL].

Speakers were Julia Gillard, chair of the GIWL and former prime minister of Australia, and Emma Codd, global inclusion leader at Deloitte. The aim was to cover the issue from both the employer and policy perspective.

Sophie Sutherland from the Social Progress Imperative chaired and stated that its research looking at social progress over the last 30 years – and not taking into account the impact of Covid – showed things were going backwards globally for women, with the world being less inclusive in 2020 than in 1990. 

Making progress

Gillard spoke of a recent global report GIWL had done with Deloitte which sought to define how businesses and policymakers can work together to move the dial forward.

She said that it showed that, in countries that have regulations on tackling the gender pay gap and promoting boardroom diversity, company leaders are more likely to push for greater gender equality, creating a ‘virtuous circle’. However, there is some frustration among multinational companies that reporting regimes differ from country to country. 

Gillard said campaigners should therefore target countries without gender pay gap reporting and get legislation introduced and, in those countries that have gender pay gap reporting, they should push for improvements.  In addition, they should pressure governments to develop a global standard on pay gap reporting, said Gillard.

Another area where business and policymakers can work together to have greater impact is equal paid leave for those with caring responsibilities as well as more affordable childcare and elder care services and greater availability of flexible working.

Gillard said: “There is so much to do to achieve gender equality that sometimes one can have a bamboozling sense of where should I start. [Prioritising certain areas] will help people find where they can put their energy. We want people to put their precious energy into things that will have the most impact.”

Culture change

Emma Codd spoke about Deloitte’s recent report on women and work, now in its third year.  While there had been some improvements since last year, burnout levels are still high, many women report microaggressions and being sidelined as part of the hybrid working experiment.  Moreover, half of the women polled felt more stressed and anxious than last year and there were significant drops in women feeling comfortable talking about their mental health, which may be because of the current economic uncertainty, said Codd. The report also covered menstrual health for the first time. The top worries for women were about their rights, their financial security and their personal safety.

Gillard said governments could help to address some of these issues by role modelling good employment practices, encouraging more women into politics and taking some policy actions, such as creating laws against sexual harassment. But she said that when it comes to issues such as microaggressions which require behaviour change it is more about cultural change and this is where employers can have a greater impact.

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