Women in the workplace (Gender)

While there has been recognisable progress in improving diversity in the workplace there remain real challenges in tackling issues of workplace equality, personal bias or exclusionary culture (Building inclusive workplaces | CIPD).

Towards the end of last year, we looked at issues affecting older and younger workers in the workplace (The Recruitment Industry and Older Workers and Giving young people a chance to connect to the world of work | Thewlis Graham Associates) and we will continue to explore the other strands of diversity including gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and disability. However, with International Women’s Day 2022 on 8th March it seems timely to focus on women in the workplace.

Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) produce the Women in Work Index which has five indicators: the gender pay gap, female labour force participation, the gap between male and female labour force participation, female unemployment and female full-time employment rate. The Women in Work Index 2021 report, revealed Iceland and Sweden once again placed first and second. The United Kingdom only ranked 16 out of the 33 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Countries (OECD).

PwC reported that women’s jobs were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 because of existing gender inequalities in society, and the disruptive impact on service sectors with high levels of female employment. The unemployment rate rose across the OECD in 2020, with women losing their jobs at a faster rate than men. The pandemic also amplified the unequal burden of unpaid care and domestic work carried out by women. The longer this higher care burden on women lasts, the more likely women are to leave the labour market permanently - not only reversing progress towards gender equality, but also stunting economic growth. (Women in Work Index 2021 - PwC UK).

Furthermore, lack of female representation in senior jobs has been highlighted by CIPD who argue “there’s still a lack of female representation in executive positions compared to non-executive roles, meaning that women are still underrepresented in operational roles, so they don’t have the day-to-day influence of decision-making roles in UK business” (Gender equality at work | CIPD Viewpoints). The gap in female representation at board level is also visible for instance between the UK with 32% compared to 46% in Iceland (ranked number one).

Governments and businesses need to continue to work together to address any underlying gender inequalities, close existing gender pay gaps, support female progression and leadership in the workplace, and fund employment and business opportunities for women, such as support schemes for female entrepreneurs and female-led start-ups and focus on growth sectors such as digital, artificial intelligence (AI), renewable energy and the Green Economy.

Actions to improve gender parity in the workplace:

  • Analyse pay data, identify any gender gaps and publish findings to focus attention on important gender equality issues that need addressing, for example, a lack of flexible working, occupational segregation and pay discrimination. CIPD have produced a helpful Gender pay gap reporting guide.
  • Prioritise succession planning and effective talent management of women across the organisation to help them receive broad experience across the business, leading to more women being appointed to more executive roles such as Chair, CEO and CFO.
  • Evaluate and develop your workforce policies and strategies such as flexible working and career path transparency etc. CIPD recommend publishing policies on flexible working, parental and carers leave on the company website to highlight how the organisation supports parents and other people with caring responsibilities.
  • Review recruitment and selection processes including using gender neutral language, setting up a diverse balanced interview panel, creating a balanced shortlist for management roles, consider using anonymous curriculum vitae (REC’s recruitment and recovery report 2021 revealed only 26% of businesses made use of anonymised CVs, while 49% of candidates thought anonymised CVs was an important tool).
  • Carry out recruitment monitoring to analyse the number of men and women applying for each role , different success rates and any occupational segregation.
  • Carry out exit interviews and use questionnaire to find out more about why and when women tend to leave the organisation.

While progress has been made in recent years, we must continue to make sure women and other diverse people from all backgrounds and experiences can be given development opportunities and fair treatment to support them progress and succeed in the workplace.

How can recruiters like Thewlis Graham Associates help?  

Recruiters are in a prime position to work with clients and make a change to help clients think more laterally about talent and be more flexible about terms and conditions and ways of working. At Thewlis Graham Associates, we dedicate time and energy to gain a proper understanding of the needs of organisations we work with and then tailor our service to meet these requirements. We use our expertise and experience as recruitment specialists along with our up to date knowledge and access to the market via our Recruitment & Employment Confederation membership to offer advice and support. We take time to explore the full potential of candidates, identifying transferrable skills and wider areas of experience, so that the very best appointments are made. Contact us if we can help.


Lizzy Turek

Client Research Associate

Women in the workplace (Gender)