March 08, 2018

Gender neutral policies are key to achieving gender equality

Gender neutral policies are key to achieving gender equality

A new report by the global management firm Accenture outlines fourteen policies that will drive progress in workplace gender equality.

Policies regarding gender disparities at work should focus not just on women but men as well, the research finds. By replacing policies that emphasize gender differences with policies that adopt a neutral approach, women will feel empowered and workplace practices will more readily facilitate progress towards gender equality.

An example of this is encouraging parental leave rather than maternity leave alone. The chances of women’s advancement when maternity leave is encouraged is –2.7% but rises to 0.33% when parental leave is encouraged.

Antti Kauhanen argues that the differences in the treatment of men and women in the labor market, including career breaks and hours worked, results in a difference in the choices and opportunities available to men and women both before and after entering the labor market. Consequently, there are gender differences in corporate hierarchies with women being in lower positions, thereby facilitating a wage gap.

A second policy suggests ensuring that remote working is widely available and employees can work from home on a day when they have a personal commitment. Indeed, Boris Hirsch writes that by improving childcare access and introducing more flexible working hours, women’s wage sensitivity increases and prevents firms from exploiting their wage-setting power, thereby minimising gender wage discrimination.

Further policies that will act as “catalysts for progress” include not asking employees to “change their appearance to conform with company culture” and to ensure that they are “comfortable reporting sex discrimination [and] sexual harassment incidents.”

This corresponds with a survey co-published by the organizers of International Women’s Day 2018 and the global market researcher Ipsos, that finds sexual harassment to be the highest ranking issue facing women across 27 countries, closely followed by sexual violence and equal pay. Over half of participants in the survey from Peru, Malaysia and Turkey, perceive sexual harassment as the most important issue facing women.

Perceptions of the percentage of female CEOs in the world’s largest 500 companies are similarly far from reality. The actual figure stands at just 3% but guesses average 19%. The UK and US are overly optimistic about how long it will take for equal pay to be a reality. Americans believe it will be achieved by 2028 and Britons by 2035, however current data indicates that equal pay will not be reached until 2059 in the US and 2117 in the UK.

The survey reveals large misconceptions regarding how long it will take for the gender pay gap to be closed. To this end, Mario Macis warns that policy interventions “cannot be expected to automatically close the gender gaps in labor force participation, wages, and political and corporate leadership that exist in countries at different levels of income per capita,” in his IZA World of Labor article, Gender differences in wages and leadership.

Read more articles on workplace discrimination and what is the gender divide?

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