The gender pay gap has been a hot topic issue for a little while now as employers and managers try to understand what it is and how to best address it. As the cultural conversation around work continues to shift, businesses are realising the full extent of the problem with latest research from the UK Gender Pay Gap report demonstrating that over three quarters of businesses have a gap that favours men. This has not changed significantly in the last fifteen years, according to the Office of National statistics, despite all the public conversation surrounding the issue.

It’s too easy to attribute the discrepancy to factors like age, location or working patterns but findings by Questback say that over two thirds of the discrepancy cannot be explained through this alone. Culture emerges as the overwhelming reason behind women not joining senior management, leading to the gender pay gap. It’s not enough to say that women simply should apply for senior positions since it ignores the barriers to entry, real or perceived, that are detrimental to women’s lifetime earnings. So, is there anything offices do to change their culture, therefore closing the gender pay gap?

What is the gender pay gap and why it matters?

Firstly, it’s worth clarifying what is meant by the gender pay gap. The gender pay gap is the measure of difference between men and women’s average earnings across organisations and/or labour markets. It’s different from equal pay since it is illegal to pay men and women different salaries for performing equal work. In Britain, the gender pay gap sits at around 18%.

Addressing the gender pay gap doesn’t just benefit women, it increases business competitiveness for companies now and will also help to gain a competitive advantage for the future too. Achieving closer gender balance in the workplace ultimately benefits businesses by attracting candidates from diverse backgrounds with varying skills that are needed to innovate and accelerate new ways of working. Candidates are looking to work for open and meritocratic businesses, with Credit Suisse finding that companies where women account for at 15% of senior management have over 50% higher profitability compared to those where representation was less than 10%.

Changing office culture

Any company can take steps to improve their office culture to have a positive effect on its current female employees, profitability, and talent retention and acquisition.

It’s essential for employers to critically evaluate existing processes around recruitment, promotion and performance management. Every company thinks they are meritocratic but taking a conscious look at what’s going on may reveal otherwise. If there are no women in senior positions or high numbers of women leave the company compared to men, then further investigation is needed. Consider creating a taskforce within the company or even hiring a consultant to help you address the issue.

Even the phrasing of job adverts needs attention as the language used often tends to attract more male candidates and is worth revisiting if your business is experiencing a shortage of female candidates.

Additionally, it’s worth conducting educational talks regarding the gender gap with all employees so that the concept can be explained and introduced in a formal manner. Data is always a useful tool in explaining why this should matter to companies and how hiring or promoting more women doesn’t mean than men miss out.

Taking the proactive approach to this will help to dispel common myths and ensure that all employees have a united vision for the company’s future and are committed to making positive changes to the office culture.