March 8th is recognised globally as International Women’s Day (IWD) and is a celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. IWD is an opportunity to challenge stereotypes and channel efforts towards gender equality.
This year’s theme is #EachforEqual, meaning together we can help create a more gender equal world.
At Purpose HR, we’re passionate about helping to promote the gender balance agenda as well as driving wider equality initiatives within businesses and we work with our clients to develop inclusive, diverse and purpose-driven workplaces and cultures.
Although progress has been made, there is still work to do in shifting the dial in favour of greater equality in business and beyond.
Women owned businesses
Supporting more women to set up and succeed in business is essential for sustained economic growth. Research carried out by the Hunter Centre (Strathclyde) indicates that if women’s participation rates matched men’s there would be the potential of c.35,000 more direct jobs in the Scottish economy, boosting the economy by as much as 5% GDP, a difference of £7.6 billion GVA.
Scottish government initiatives to support female entrepreneurship are having an impact and it’s encouraging to see women’s enterprise rates accelerating. The proportion of women who are actively starting a business has risen significantly and women-owned businesses contribute £8.8 bn GVA into the Scottish economy every year, a 76% increase since 2012.
We are exceptionally proud that Purpose HR is a female-led business and are so fortunate to have a strong community of female entrepreneurs in Scotland with a fantastic support network which we are actively engaged in and have benefited greatly from ourselves.
Our Founder & CEO, Lisa Thomson, is a longstanding champion and promotor of women in business, acting as a mentor and role-model, sharing her own journey and challenges, and inspiring other women to start up and grow their own business. She is also a proud ambassador for Women’s Enterprise Scotland.
Female entrepreneurship across all sectors inspires and motivates a whole new generation of women in the workplace.
Gender diversity at board level
Whilst there has been improvement in the number of women at board level in organisations, women are still seriously under-represented. There’s also variation across sectors with significantly less women sitting on the boards of STEM businesses globally than in any other industry.
Research shows that boards with a more equal gender balance are more effective. The main reason for this is that diversity drives innovation. It brings different ways of approaching problems, coming up with solutions and thinking of new ideas. Female directors tend to be less conformist and more likely to express their independent views. Moreover, studies show that female representation on boards has been found to attenuate male CEO overconfidence and correct for potentially biased beliefs.
Women are also likely to be ambitious about expansion – in a survey by Women’s Enterprise Scotland 87% of surveyed female-led enterprises were planning growth in the next year and 27% were planning rapid growth.
A further benefit of women on boards is that it is likely to encourage other women to become involved in business and apply for senior management roles.
Balanced boards make business sense. They improve the performance of organisations and thereby benefit the wider economy.
Encouraging women into STEM
The lack of diversity in the STEM industries is of particular concern. It is estimated that only 25% of the STEM sector in Scotland are women, and only 10% of senior managers in STEM are women. This is a waste of talent and opportunity as well as jeopardising Scotland’s chances to be at the forefront of innovation.
The gender gap in STEM is a strategic challenge. Getting more women active in the workforce, boosting the talent pool and driving performance and inclusive growth for employers is a priority. A push on cultural and workplace change is essential to achieving this and making a real difference in the sector. This is absolutely key as early as possible in an organisation’s growth journey, to avoid risk of ‘diversity debt’ which can be increasingly harder to address as a business grows.
Industry engagement initiatives and role models within education are working hard at readdressing the gender balance in STEM. Through providing support, opportunities and guidance, organisations such as Girl Geek Scotland, dressCode and F1 in Schools are doing fantastic work to empower females to engage in STEM and inspire the next generation of Scottish tech talent.
Our Women in STEM survey last year (supported and sponsored by 2 of our high growth clients, Administrate and Modulr, and endorsed by Girl Geek Scotland and Women’s Enterprise Scotland) looked at gender balance in STEM with the aim of understanding what factors can both attract and deter women from applying for jobs in these sectors. The survey focused on areas where SME employers can improve their employment proposition to better attract and retain more women. Through the findings of the survey, we have been able to provide practical recommendations and advice for SME employers to help attract, develop and retain more diverse talent, as well as working with clients to tailor these recommendations in practice. Download the report findings here.
Closing the gender pay gap
The gender pay gap still exists across all sectors. The UK is one of the first countries to introduce gender pay gap reporting for organisations of 250 or more employees. In 2018 the median gender pay gap for full-time employees in Scotland was 5.7% and for all employees it was 15.0%. Whilst not required for smaller businesses by legislation, it is good practice for all employers to have an inclusive remuneration strategy and to proactively benchmark and analyse their pay data.
Ensuring that women have the same opportunities as men to fulfil their potential in the workplace is a key part of building a country that works for everyone. Shining a light on where women are being held back means employers can take action to close the gap.
We recently signed up to the Scottish Business Pledge which promotes fairness, equality opportunity and innovation in business, creating greater economic success and sustainable, inclusive growth.
To sign up for the Pledge you must meet the first three core elements, one of which is showing action to close the gender pay gap, meet another five of the remaining seven Pledge elements and make a longer term commitment to achieving all 10 elements of the Pledge.
We strongly believe in fairness, equality, inclusivity and diversity for sustainable business grow and encourage other businesses to make the Pledge too. More information can be found on the Scottish Business Pledge website.
Hopes for the future
In celebration of IWD, we asked female role models in our network who have shown passion and determination in their field what they would like gender equality to look like in 2030. Here are the hopes they shared with us:
“By 2030 I hope for a 50:50 gender balanced ecosystem, where women can start up in business and access the same level of support as men. Moving on from the “one size fits all” view and creating a landscape where diversity of thought powers innovation, boosts productivity and builds an inclusive, thriving economy.”Carolyn Currie, CEO, Women’s Enterprise Scotland
“By 2030 I’d love to see ALL countries recognising the value of equal rights, resources and opportunities for both men and women. I’d love to see a significant decrease in violence against women. I’d love to see a tangible improvement to the economy in parallel to gender equality. I’d love to see a workplace fairly represented by women in flexible, justly-remunerated senior roles.”Joy Lewis, CEO, AAI EmployAbility
“My hopes for the future are that women are confident for who they are, and ambitious for themselves and others. I hope there is great respect for diversity of thought and approach and the strengths this can bring. I hope women in positions of power and great responsibility are admired for what they deliver and not what they wear!”Caroline Briggs, CEO, Amici
Gender equality should represent women of different backgrounds, shapes and colour. It should really embrace the one thing we all have in common – ‘difference’. Gender equality mustn’t just be the ‘buzz word’, it ought to be the norm. As a woman of colour, I would like to see women of all backgrounds appreciated and valued.”Pheona Matovu, Co-founder, Radiant and Brighter
Our final thoughts
This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the many remarkable women we know and how far gender equality has come. We recognise that there is still a way to go and collectively we can make change happen and together help forge a gender equal world.
Ensuring diversity in the widest sense is a fundamental foundation to building a truly inclusive culture where everyone can thrive.
Happy International Women’s Day! #EachforEqual
Get in touch to find out more about how we can support you in developing an inclusive, diverse and purpose-driven workplace to enable your team and business to thrive and grow.