Article by Laura Hourican, Senior Vice President Human Resources, Firstsource
Since 2017, employers with over 250 employees must publicly report their gender pay gap. Initiatives such as these drive awareness of the disadvantages working women still face. There has also been an increased emphasis on recognising female-focused events like International Women’s Day and National Women’s Health Week.
Undoubtedly these are all steps in the right direction, but businesses must continue building upon successes to play a more meaningful part in enabling change. This article shares how we’ve tackled various issues to support women in our workforce.
At Firstsource, we host female-focussed events that celebrate professional achievements of women in the workforce. We also provide safe environments for female workers to voice views and concerns.
For example, at our office in Derby, we held a Women in Leadership event to promote conversations about the female experience in the workplace. The event had a great turnout and provided our female employees with more opportunities to share ideas and voice struggles. Many conversations were sparked about how to improve the experience women have in the work environment.
We also run a mentoring programme to connect women with more senior female colleagues who provide insights, training, and resources to help progress in mentees’ careers. Having a mentor increases assertiveness and creates a supportive working environment. Receiving feedback through mentoring can improve confidence and reduce gender-specific worries, which in turn can have a positive impact on mental health.
Adopting hybrid working during the pandemic improved work-life balance for many working parents. Hybrid working provided more flexibility and opportunities for both parents to share childcare responsibility more equally. We offer flexible options to work from home, enabling women to pursue careers even in instances where they might be a primary care giver, as it gives them more flexibility to balance work and care responsibilities.
Progressive maternity policies are another way to provide more support employees. We’ve introduced supportive messaging and flexible working from home. With 17% of women leaving the workforce entirely after childbirth, compared with 4% of men, UK employers can clearly do more to support women. Our maternity policy helps provide an environment of equal opportunity for working mothers and alleviates some of the stress of returning to work after pregnancy.
Earlier this year Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister revealed she is anxious about the menopause, how it might impact her work, and addressed the stigma attached to the subject. Menopause can make working difficult for women, yet frequently it is overlooked as a workplace issue. It is crucial for companies to have menopause policies in place that allow women to carry out their job while taking care of their wellbeing.
Last year, we launched our menopause policy, seeking a more inclusive approach. We offer a variety of support, from inclusive conversations to mental health and wellbeing first aid, and days off. To ensure these policies work, we trained both male and female leaders on female health policies.
Even with specific policies in place, there’s evidence women are likely to be more disadvantaged when they return to work after childbirth. And of course, there’s the gender pay gap.
We found the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index (GEI) a useful benchmarking tool. GEI uses gender-data reporting to measure the performance of public companies and their commitment to transparency.
It helped us measure our approach, policies and results against other companies, and identify areas to improve. It helped us take a step back and ask ourselves, “How can we do more?”. We are proud to be named in the GEI for 2021 and 2022.