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3 tips on running a gender equality health check

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When it comes to gender equality in the workplace, although we have made massive strides in the right direction, the stats say there is still a long way to go. Whether it be the 16% pay gap, gender differences in senior positions, or the significant difference in overall workforce participation (female participation in Australia is 59.1% compared to 70.2% for males), there are various societal elements that need further attention to bridge this divide.

One of the most important changes as we move forward and prepare future generations for gender equality, is the attitude towards the topic. We need to shift from gender equality being a “men vs. women” battle, into a collective and societal attitude towards equal opportunity in the workplace, and in our general lives.

As HR professionals we have a responsibility to ensure that any gender biases in the workforce are addressed and eradicated, to create an environment where we are all just ‘people’ in the workplace contributing to the same business mission. Ascender’s former CEO Marjukka Maki Hokkonen strongly agrees, as her Finnish heritage cemented her ideals regarding gender equality: “It’s really important to focus on the work. What I mean by this, is that it is important to not give too much thought to gender – or age or colour for that matter. Just work to not give them any room in your thoughts… It’s a difficult guideline to follow, but it’s critical to equality in the workplace”.

But how do we prepare the next generation to cope with a world that is moving at different paces when it comes to equal opportunity, and to stand strong to new ideals? First we need to look inward, to ensure their work environment has the foundations to support them on this journey. Below we cover 3 key tips on how to run a gender equality “health check” and maintain this new norm in the workplace.

1. Use Digital HR to expose gender divides

In the mission to make equality the norm, it’s crucial to evaluate the current state of our workforce to see how this can be improved. Digital HR systems are a way of using existing information to extract key insights. Some key questions that you can ask yourself as a HR professional might be:

  • What is our organisation’s current conversion rate from a promotion perspective?
  • Is my organisation’s current promotion conversion rate equal across genders and departments?
  • At which level (entry, middle management, leadership), does the conversion rate become more disparate between genders?

These are just a few questions we can consider by analysing HR data and preparing for future generations. Maki Hokkonen supports this in a recent Australian article: “At Ascender we are a HR and payroll technology company and our overall gender diversity profile is strong with a 50/50 gender ratio on the management team. While it is important to understand society’s construct, which we know is limiting women from progressing in their careers, it is even more crucial to see beyond that lens”.

2. Conduct a payroll SaaS data analysis

If there’s one source of truth when it comes to gender equality – it’s your payroll data. This is where you will be able to analyse where and if there are any variable salaries in place for employees that are in similar roles. Although this might be confronting, it’s essential that as HR professionals we take this responsibility on board and evaluate why disparities might exist, and what you can do to make it better moving forward.

In October 2016, SAP shared its experiences of delving into its payroll data for all 20,000 of its North American employees, what they found and how it was resolved with Quartz. Jennifer Morgan, SAP’s North American Division President stated that during this exercise they discovered that “1% of its employees were underpaid and about 70% of those, or 140, were women”. The cost to SAP to revise the salary difference translated to an average increase of about $5,000 per impacted employee.

So while the exercise is likely to reveal room for improvement in your diversity strategy, it’s vital to evaluate your existing data for areas to improve employee pay equality.

3. Have formal programs in place that support gender equality

Gender equality is a common topic of discussion – but without the right action to follow, these good intentions can slip through the cracks. Gender focused programs reflect an organisation’s position on inclusion and diversity, so it’s important that HR leaders have formal programs in place to ensure that the norm of ‘people’ in the workplace can become a reality across all organisations.

An organisation to look to for inspiration is EY and their pioneering “Inclusiveness Leadership Program”. To ensure that there is a clear path to leadership, EY offer “education, mentoring, sponsorship and networking opportunities geared toward their professional needs” to their female employees.

By implementing and promoting these programs internally, HR has the opportunity to send a strong message to both the men and women of your organisation, that diversity and inclusion is held in high regard and aligns with your business values.

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