Employment Lawyer Samantha Mangwana comments on the Equalities Minister announcement that companies will have to report their gender breakdown numbers.
Equalities Minister Jo Swinson’s announcement that British companies will be forced to report how many women they employ, should be welcomed. Transparency will highlight companies' track records on attracting and/or retaining female talent. It can't simply be ignored if it has to be reported.
Many people assume that sexism is ancient history - irrelevant to the modern workplace. If only this were true. Women are routinely paid less than men - 15% less on average nationally, 23% less in London. And although girls routinely outperform boys at school, and women secure about half of graduate jobs at entry level, further up the food chain it all falls apart - only three of the chief executives of FTSE 100 companies are female, and only 22% of Judges are female, and men outnumber women 5 to 1 in the Cabinet.
Why does that matter? Because the loss of and waste of talent is a crying shame. Just as a football team wouldn't leave half their talented players sitting on the bench, we can't as a nation afford not to utilise half our best people.
Moreover, experience and research shows us that diversity at senior levels leads to better decision-making - rather than a room full of people who all think the same, a balanced boardroom makes for balanced thinking.
This proposal helps women and it helps companies in a straightforward way - while avoiding the more controversial option of quotas. It could go further, requiring companies to report on their potential legal risks - checking whether men and women are being paid equally - shareholders will after all want to know the risk of exposure to costly equal pay disputes, but this is a welcome step in the right direction.
It is in shareholders interests to hold companies to account on Gender Equality within the workplace. Compliance to mitigate risk and liability is a business issue. This makes Gender Equality make business sense.
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