As we mark International Women's Day, many of us will be celebrating the achievements of females past and present around the globe. It is a fantastic opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, but it is equally important to take a critical look and see just how far we still need to go. This is especially true in terms of career opportunities and equality in pay, which we are disappointingly far away from achieving.
Between 2014 and 2015, the Office for National Statistics revealed the gender pay gap between men and women for full-time workers dropped by just 0.2%, from 9.6% to 9.4%. If we leave this problem to fix itself alone it will likely be decades before parity is achieved. Money is not the only concern when it comes to gender differences, as career progression seems to be equally challenging for many females today. Sellick Partnership's Gender Diversity Survey recently polled over 1,000 people to understand more about attitudes and opportunities for those in work. The results, released on International Women's Day, highlight some important issues that we all have a responsibility to tackle if we are to level the playing field for future generations.
Of those surveyed, 34% of women have actively pursued promotions in the last 12 months, compared with 51% of men. Despite this, the same number of people were successful in gaining a promotion (76%), regardless of their gender. The latter figure is encouraging, but begs the question of why there is such a huge gap between both genders in terms of actually applying for a promotion. It suggests there is a lack of confidence felt among women when it comes to climbing the career ladder, so why is this?
According to 31% of women we spoke to, childcare commitments prevent them from pursuing promotion, compared with just 6% of men who felt held back by their childcare responsibilities. This indicates that working mothers are still struggling to find a balance between their jobs and home life. Employers must recognise this ongoing battle and consider how best to overcome the hurdles faced by parents. Where possible, flexible working can really help to ease the burden, as can the option of working from home. Thanks to advances in technology, younger workers are already being offered greater flexibility than older generations had at the start of their careers, and this was reflected in our survey. 44% of older women (aged 55-64) believe women are not given fair opportunities in career progression, compared with 27% of younger women (aged 18-24). Yet many men still fail to recognise the inequality that remains between the sexes, with 58% of males believing women are given fair opportunities in their careers, compared with 40% of females.
Clearly, we still have a long way to go in creating a balanced working environment for both sexes to flourish in their careers. There has been a lot of talk recently regarding the introduction of quotas to ensure equality, but the idea of forcing the issue does not sit comfortably with many people. I am firmly of the belief that jobs should be given based on merit and suitability for the role, regardless of any other factors, and this might not be possible if an employer had a quota to fill. We should all be asking ourselves whether we could be doing more to help women thrive in every element of their lives. Employers have a responsibility to ensure this is happening in the workplace and that there is an environment where both sexes feel comfortable pursuing career progression, as this can only have positive results for business leaders. Those that are able to recognise the challenges felt by workers of both sexes and work to address these will ultimately benefit from a happier, more stable workforce and an improved employer brand which helps them to attract the best talent.