IWD 2021: the broken echelon

At a time when women leaders around the world are widely praised for their successful handling of the coronavirus pandemic and women in leadership roles become more common than ever, it is also statistically likely that as a woman you have encountered various obstacles in the workplace.

These barriers range from “maternity sentence” and “broken rung” to sexual harassment and menopause.

To understand why these barriers remain in place today, we need to recognize that many traditional workplace structures and cultures evolved during a time when women were largely absent from the labor market or were rarely the primary earners of the workplace. family.

These structures and cultures have ossified over the years, and so, even today, with much greater numbers of women in the workplace, we continue to face challenges similar to those our ancestors had in the workplace. the 60s and 70s.

With the widespread upheaval in work practices that we are all experiencing in the wake of the pandemic, there is no better time to examine the areas where changes are needed in the workplace, to ensure that the true gender equality becomes a reality.

“Different from the ‘glass ceiling’ which refers to the barriers that prevent women from reaching the top of their field, the ‘broken rung’ is a phenomenon in which women are disproportionately stuck below the management level.”

It is precisely for this reason that, on March 30, expert speakers from the public and private sectors, as well as Irish MEP from the EPP Group, Frances Fitzgerald, will examine these problems and discuss solutions at a Dods conference on diversity. and the inclusion titled “ Supporting Women at Work ”. .

The conference will cover a range of issues and challenges women face in the workplace and provide employers, managers and human resource professionals with expert advice on how to overcome these barriers to women’s advancement in the workplace. all stages of their life and career.

So what are the main obstacles for women in the workplace? In answering this question, the first thing to recognize is that while traditional structures or ideas about working life may be the root cause of these obstacles, social norms, stereotypes or prejudices often reinforce their power.

Take the “broken bar”, sometimes called “sticky floor”. Unlike the ‘glass ceiling’, which refers to the barriers that prevent women from reaching the top of their field, the ‘broken rung’ is a phenomenon where women are disproportionately trapped below the managerial level. .

Research by McKinsey and LeanIn.org in the United States found that failing to move from an entry-level to a management position repels women for the rest of their careers.

Although this is a US-based study, like the Glass Ceiling, the model is replicated around the world. In the UK, for example, men are 40% more likely to be promoted to managerial positions than women.

It is not for lack of qualification; women outperform men in education and enter the labor market with higher qualifications. On the contrary, it has been suggested that women are held to a higher level, promoted on the basis of performance, while men are promoted more on the basis of potential.

Several years later, the “maternity sentence” tends to rise.

Research by the UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies found that it is after the birth of a woman’s first child that the gender pay gap becomes really problematic, steadily increasing over time. rising from around 7% at the time of birth to almost 35% twenty years later. .

A UK government study citing the report found that part-time work partly explains this disparity, but “a substantial amount remains unexplained” – suggesting that bias plays a significant role. Stigma also materializes in more subtle ways about other issues, such as menopause.

“It is after the birth of a woman’s first child that the gender pay gap becomes really problematic, steadily increasing over time from around 7% at the time of birth to almost 35%. twenty years later ”

In the UK, women of menopause age are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace. The average age to go through menopause is 51 – a time in life when men and women are often preparing for leadership positions and with well over a decade of their working lives before retirement.

Menopause itself is widely regarded as a taboo subject, and often even a source of shame. What’s more, 59 percent of working women with symptoms of menopause say it negatively impacts them at work.

However, small actions by managers and employers – often starting with an open conversation – can make a huge difference in the experience of employees, both at work and through menopause.

The benefits for employers are also evident, allowing them to retain valuable members of their workforce and expertise and avoid the costs of hiring and absence.

In order to fully tackle the taboos affecting the professional experience of women, it would be remiss to neglect the problems of domestic violence and sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is often a culture change issue, requiring the commitment of senior leaders and a zero tolerance policy. Domestic violence is more subtle, especially since it may initially appear to be a subject that has little to do with professional life.

The statistics paint a different picture, however; even before the lockdown, statistics showed domestic violence was costing the UK economy £ 1.9bn a year in lost productivity, holidays, wages and sick pay.

Additionally, in an office culture, 75% of victims are targeted at work with unwanted calls and emails.

The occasion of International Women’s Day lends itself well to the conversation about how we can more support women in the workplace. Since we spend about a third of our life at work, women should be entitled to the same working conditions and pay as our male counterparts.

The upcoming Dods Diversity & Inclusion online conference “Supporting Women at Work” aims to provide an indispensable platform to these pressing issues.

To learn more about the full-day online event, click here: www.dodsdiversity.com/upcoming-events/ view, support-women-at-work_246.htm