By Julie Chakraverty, CEO and Founder, Rungway
The switch to hybrid working has impacted our wellbeing in unexpected ways. One prominent issue that has been exacerbated is the imbalance between genders – not only in pay but in the wellbeing support received in the workplace. With more women choosing the hybrid working model, the concern is whether this could present more opportunities for existing bias to harm women and create new barriers for progression. Hybrid workers have a 50% lower rate of promotion than those working in the office. Companies must work diligently to solve this imbalance if they hope to cultivate a positive employee experience and retain the best talent.
The gender pay gap is already one that has been noted, even before the pandemic, with UK employers legally required to report on the gender pay gap for companies with more than 250 employees beginning in 2017. While this is a step in the right direction, we still have a huge problem when it comes to securing pay parity between women and men. In the financial services sector in 2021, the gender pay gap between women and men was 26.5% – meaning that on average male employees earned significantly more than female employees who worked in finance last year. At present, we typically see women being promoted on their prior performance, whereas men can be promoted more easily based on their potential. Often, this occurs as a result of unconscious biases, and the only way to change it is to begin at the top. This starts with being aware, and making an effort to truly understand the challenges your employees face on a daily basis.
Data from the Rungway platform reveals some stark differences when it comes to the help women and men seek. Women are 30% more likely than male colleagues to request support about personal challenges (doubling to 60% more in financial services), suggesting that women’s needs must be explicitly addressed in the overall culture of the organisation in order for everyone to flourish.
Additionally, hybrid working has changed the performance review and appraisal process differently for men and women. When asked if they had received a performance appraisal during the pandemic, a significant percentage of women said they were “not sure”, while no male colleagues gave this reply. This could be because some managers don’t feel comfortable taking a formal approach to women’s performance conversations outside of the office environment, or perhaps that women are holding back asking for feedback. Ambiguity over appraisals, though, will directly inhibit our ability to drive our career forward.
So, we know the gender gap remains a prominent issue in most workplaces – but how can we fix it?
In order to work towards balance, we must factor in the lived experience of our employees, to help them thrive and recognise their worth. The only way to achieve this is by instilling cultural change and ensuring that everyone’s voices are heard equally, regardless of career level or background. I can base this assertion off my own experiences working in a male dominated field.
As a young woman working in investment banking back in the 1990s, I noticed there was a prominent ‘laugh or leave’ culture where lewd comments and inappropriate behaviour from a minority were generally tolerated by the majority. This made it difficult for those who looked or sounded different to raise their hand to challenge the status quo or seek advice. Many years later I decided to launch an employee listening platform, Rungway, to try and make the employee experience more equal. Business leaders like to believe that any question can be asked without fear of consequences – but this is simply not the case. Rungway data shows that gender, race, seniority, and many other factors differentiate our confidence in the workplace, suggesting our own lived experience is the biggest determinant of our attitudes at work.
All employees should be empowered to ask questions anonymously without fear of judgment or other repercussions – especially in a hybrid working environment where individuals have fewer opportunities to speak up. 60% of all Rungway questions have been asked by women, even though women usually make up less than half of the workforce in the companies we work with. That statistic is really important to me, because it shows that we are making an impact by providing dedicated space where every voice can be heard. Organisations should implement broad processes to inspire a cultural shift in how women are viewed, and treated, in the workplace. It’s time for leaders to be much more radical in their approach to career development if they hope to ensure a positive experience for all.