Gender Parity Initiatives for the Office and Society: Is it Okay to be Optimistic?

Hello and welcome to the last article of our mini-series. As we have done in the previous articles, in this last piece we will be discussing what our HBA members think companies and society are doing to improve gender equality. 

We asked two HBA members to provide their views on what else can be done to reduce gender imbalance in the workplace. Both said there is still much to be done as there is great gender disparity in specific industries such as technology and science. One of our participants believes we need to look back to education and think about how can we make certain subjects more appealing to women? How do we get more women on graduate programmes? Although a lot of companies are doing this, where there is nearly a 50/50 split of men and women in junior roles, it is often the case that male counterparts are being promoted more regularly, creating a bigger gap in more senior roles. 

Our young professional believes that having more women in leadership roles can allow the management and the company to carry more empathy for gender parity because they would have people coming from this demographic to tell the right story. More should be done from early on, within the home and at school, to support and raise awareness of different career paths and allow children to explore different skills and allow them to follow their desires. The government should incentivise schools and companies to do more. One of our young professionals feels very optimistic and believes we will see big changes soon, with more women in leadership positions within different industries providing excellent role models for kids. As Helena Morrissey said, "this is a great time to be a girl." 

Countries are working hard to achieve gender equality, as highlighted earlier, the Nordics are very successful at this. One of our interviewees lived in Sweden and was astonished to see a similar proportion of males and females in senior management roles and she believes this was because gender neutrality is built in from nursery onwards. Companies and society also understand that non-work responsibilities are important and you are not looked down on if you need to attend non-work events. Different from other countries, the UK provides a good opportunity for shared maternity and paternity leave, relieving the pressure from society and allowing mothers to go back to work sooner. In fact, the wife of one of the HBA members, was also able to start a new career whilst being seven months pregnant, something that is unheard of in other European countries such as Italy. 

Of course, there is a lot more countries can do to improve women being in leadership positions and ultimately to increase the number of women coming back to work after maternity leave. Examples of this would be allowing for flexible working hours or providing childcare and nurseries within company grounds. These would help young professionals balance family life with work life and thus allow more parity in higher positions. 

When we asked two members of the HBA what they do to help themselves in their career progression, both said that the important thing was to take control of your own career. The best way of progressing and achieving your goals is to build a business case around your appraisal time. Do not take a back seat and rely on other people's approval but use evidence to improve your self-esteem and fight for your progression. It is often the case that women do not apply to a job because there are a couple of points in the job description they cannot tick off, while men tend to apply irrespective of the number of points they can meet. For many women, the limiting factor is not believing in oneself and worrying they cannot achieve what is expected. 

It is important to network outside your company, build relationships and find a mentor, someone who can give you constructive criticism and allow you to find the right path. Find out more about what our HBA members thought by watching the interviews. Do you believe there are more workplaces and society can do? 

Despite the great progress that has been made in the past 20-30 years, there is still more to be done to make gender equality a reality. Reasonable ways of closing the gender gap can be simple things such as encouraging women into leadership, shining a spotlight on female role models, creating inclusive workplace environments and changing mindsets, cultures, and policies. Social science research shows that when you ask a six-year-old boy or girl to draw a picture of a corporate CEO or a scientist, more often than not they draw men. I think that, when children begin to paint pictures of female CEOs and scientists, we will know that serious progress is being made and we should be happy with the role we played in making this happen.