When Is Enough Ken-ough?

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When Is Enough Ken-ough?

Key Contact: Claire Knowles

Author: Joshua Prior & Laura Spence

The blockbuster film of the summer, Barbie, highlights the continued need to fight discrimination. As an employer, are you doing enough?

Following this year’s blockbuster, Barbie, a spotlight has been shone on patriarchy in modern-day society.

The film begins in Barbie Land, a pink utopia in which women rule the world. The president is a Barbie, the Supreme Court is comprised only of Barbies, and every other professional role is held by a Barbie. Ken, the leading male, has the inferior position of simply “beach.”

However, when Barbie enters the real world she’s faced with the realities of our continuing patriarchal norms, and sadly the sexism and misogyny that can come from that. Most disappointingly, to her horror, girls in the real world hold Barbie somewhat accountable for women not being seen for their true worth, and equal.

The iconic monologue of America Ferrara also highlighted the common pressures women face day to day from appearances to careers; “You have to be thin, but not too thin and you can never say you want to be thin… you have to be a career woman but also be looking out for other people.”Whilst also raising the question, where is this pressure coming from? Society as a whole, or women themselves?

Whilst we can debate all day how we treat and perceive gender in modern-day society, let’s consider how this plays out in the workplace. Are men and women still being subject to conflicting ideologies and stereotypes in their roles? Is there still a glass ceiling? If so, who’s creating it?

Why is this important?

Simply put, a happy workforce that feels fairly treated and respected = a more productive workforce.

The benefits of fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace that promotes equality for all stretch further than reducing legal claims. Benefits include greater productivity, retention, creativity, cost management, and profitability across a business, along with internal and external positive reputation.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion report, organisations with diverse workforces enjoy 20% more creativity and 19% higher revenue from innovation. Further, recent studies show that companies in the top quartile of gender diversity in executive teams are 25% more likely to have greater profitability.

Does the law currently go far enough?

There are currently various legal protections to eliminate sex discrimination in the workplace. Most notably, the Equality Act 2010, protects individuals from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, and victimisation on the grounds of sex. Pregnancy and maternity leave-related discrimination is also covered, along with legislation to ensure equal pay for equal work.

However, notwithstanding these core fundamental protections, gender pay gap reporting continues to show men being paid more than women in certain industries, with technology, finance, and insurance being the highest. Recent reports show a median pay gap of 26% in the tech industry and as high as 40% in some banks.

With these stats, we can only assume the law is merely touching the surface of positive action to ensure equality. As such, it’s up to employers and business owners to take the initiative in implementing more creative and effective practices to help eliminate gender inequality in the workplace.

Obvious examples include:

  • Flexible and agile working practices encourage and support women in the workplace, allowing them to juggle home commitments with work more easily.
  • Recognising the impact of menopause on women and putting supportive measures in place to accommodate employees’ changing needs as they age.
  • Enhanced maternity and/or shared parental leave pay so that women aren’t disadvantaged financially by having children. Enhanced shared parental leave benefits also facilitate a more balanced approach for men and women to share childhood responsibilities in the early years.
  • Creating a fair and transparent pay structure that is based on objective outputs, not length of service or historical pay patterns.
  • Offer skill development opportunities to all employees. Encouraging women to enrol in training programs that are usually male-dominated such as leadership and technical training.
  • Running unconscious bias and diversity training for all staff.
  • Anonymous hiring processes and diverse interview panels.

Our specialist employment lawyers provide a range of services that support businesses in structuring an inclusive working environment. We can run interactive training programs, review/draft internal policies, and be on hand to answer day-to-day queries. We can also guide and support you should any issues or disputes arise, providing timely, cost-effective solutions. If you would like further information, please get in touch with claire.knowles@acuitylaw.com.

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