While many great strides have been made in Ireland in recent decades to address inequality in the workplace, there is still more work to do, writes James Magill, HR Director at Vodafone Ireland.
In 2016 it was estimated that men earn on average 20% more than their female colleagues working in the same position.
Women in Ireland are significantly under-represented in decision-making structures accounting for less than a fifth of members of local authorities. Women are still under-represented in sectors such as technology, finance and engineering. How can positive change for women come about if they are not in a position to influence that change?
If you want to attract more women into your industry it is important to reach out and attract future talent while at the same time creating a culture within your organisation where diversity is celebrated. Employees must feel valued regardless of their gender.
Flexible working is also an area for greater development by employers to allow all employees, but especially females, to more easily balance family and work commitments. Managing output rather than presenteeism is a model that more businesses should adopt.
By simply putting the tools and technologies in place to facilitate this, employers can make a significant positive impact on the lives of employees.
In 2015 Vodafone made a move to support and retain female talent who decided to have children; this has been a high profile decision to globally harmonise our maternity policy and offer mothers across the company full pay for working a reduced 30-hour week when they return from maternity leave for the first six months.
A strong commitment to diversity is a source of business strength. Diverse teams are proven to perform better and employees who work within an inclusive environment are more productive and give more discretionary effort.
If you are to be successful in this changing world, you need people who think differently, look different and act different; and you need to empower them to bring their whole selves to work.
It is important to embed equality into all workplace processes in order to actively manage fair and equal pay, ensure a balanced pipeline of men and women in all resourcing short-lists, guarantee diversity of interviewers to manage unconscious bias and to drive and cross reference talent stats to ensure you have balance and fair representation.
If employers want to ensure they implement a diversity and inclusion strategy that offers real change, an inclusive ethos must be championed by leadership and role-modelled from the top. At the same time, it is important to encourage grassroots initiatives to develop from within the organisation.
Empowering women is not just good for women, but for everyone
At Vodafone Ireland our self-formed employee resource groups, including the Women’s Network, LGBT+ Friends Network and our Diversity Champions, foster cultural understanding and positive change.
It is vital to instill in your male leaders the importance of gender equality. Vodafone have invested in the MARC Leaders Workshop where emerging and senior male leaders can develop critical inclusive leadership strategies, sharpen awareness of inequalities, unconscious biases, and privilege, and hone skills to make lasting impact.
We know that in order to make meaningful and long-lasting change in gender parity, men need to be on-board and taking equal part in the journey.
MALE DOMINATED SECTORS
This year Ireland is one of 26 countries chosen to take part in Vodafone’s ReConnect programme, an initiative designed to encourage talented women, that are on a career break, back into the workforce.
As part of this, Vodafone will offer management and front-facing positions to women who are keen to rejoin the workforce.
We’ll do this by offering flexible working conditions and refresher training to help talented women re-enter the work force at a position that reflects their experience, skills and talent. We want to send out a signal to women and other employers that we are missing out on some of the most talented people Ireland has to offer if we don’t find a way to give them the chance they deserve.
It is fair to say this is an ongoing journey and one that requires constant focus and attention, but, if you make the effort, you can influence change
Empowering women is not just good for women, but for everyone. Much still needs to be done to encourage females into traditionally male dominated career sectors and it is clear there is still a gap in gender pay in many professions. However, by acknowledging that we all have a role to play in the solution, we can work towards positive change.
It is fair to say this is an ongoing journey and one that requires constant focus and attention, but, if you make the effort, you can influence change. We believe a strong commitment to diversity is a source of business strength, enabling us to understand better the needs of the men and women, families and businesses that rely on our networks and services.