International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day for reflection for many. Totum Consultant Joanna Milne considers the current landscape and the practical steps to ensuring gender equity in the workplace.

IWD is not just about women: it’s a day to consider the place of women within the world, how it is evolving and for me it is about what we can do to remove bias and ensure women are given equity within the workplace.

This year, IWD is about choosing to challenge. Never has this been so powerful as in the 2021 landscape where women’s careers have, according to multiple reports from the UN, the UK Government, leading think tanks and consultancies, taken a step back as a result of the pandemic. 

  • More women have lost their jobs than men (the institute for Fiscal Studies and the UCL Institute of Education found that mothers were 47% more likely to have permanently lost or quit their job).
  • More women have been furloughed than men (14% more likely).
  • Women have taken a larger role in childcare due to school closures.
  • Fewer women have asked for, or been granted, pay increases.

Working in recruitment I have seen this firsthand: I’ve spoken to women who feel their careers have been stalled by Covid and are very concerned for their future.

I won’t dwell too much on the statistics or the reasons behind them. My question is: What can we do?

As people supporting the hiring and advancement of women in the workplace:

  • Consider those with career gaps as you would other candidates. There are some fantastic stories from the likes of Grant Thornton and Allen & Overy (A&O) – see more details of A&O’s ‘I’m Back’ programme, which won ‘Gender Diversity Project of the Year at the Women in Law Awards 2020.
  • Seriously consider possibilities for allowing roles to be done part-time – challenge your stakeholders and ask ‘for the right person who is engaged with this role, will a four-day week or nine-day fortnight work?’
  • Remove the stigma around flexible working – advocate and promote an opportunity if it allows someone to do the school run, or to condense their hours into a four-day week whilst still working full time.
  • Review salaries and standardize pay.
  • Actively encourage women’s progression – ensure reviews are consistent and ask and engage with individual career goals.

As women looking to further their careers:

  • Be clear and unapologetic in your requests. Do not feel the need to explain or justify yourself for asking for part-time work, flexibility or a pay increase.
  • Encourage your female colleagues, mentor, support and raise them up.
  • When applying for roles, cast your net wider, do not only consider yourself for roles where you already tick all the boxes.
  • Stop using the word ‘just’, ‘we’ or ‘kind of’ in your meetings or interviews. Be proud of your achievements and own them.
  • Challenge your own self-doubt (imposter syndrome is far more prevalent in females than males).
  • Prioritise yourself, think about what you want and give yourself the time to do it.

If you want to work with a recruiter who champions diversity, equity and inclusion within the workplace then feel free to get in touch for a confidential chat about your career. You can contact me at [email protected] or click here to find out more about the team at Totum.

Related links:
Totum Event - March 16th: Gender equity in a post-covid workplace
Covid and returning to work from maternity
Totum's commitment to diversity
Race Fairness Commitment