In a cultural climate where businesses are expected to be increasingly transparent, Unravelled consultancy founder and director Vanessa Thompson urges retailers to identify and address the gender-based pay gaps within their workforce.
It is increasingly important for businesses to operate transparently and honestly in today’s market – in fact, consumers demand it. Disclosing your factory partners in your supply chain has become a hot topic in the media, with customers demanding visibility over where their products are made and who made them.
Transparency doesn’t stop there though. You need to take a holistic approach to transparency, and include your own operations. Diversity and gender equality in business are now becoming equally important issues for customers.
Industries like construction and IT are known for being predominantly male-run industries, but the fashion industry also suffers from a lack of women in management. A recent article recognised that although women make up the majority of customers in the fashion industry, most celebrated fashion designers are men. Underneath the crowns at the top sits a predominantly female workforce, with women holding most of the creative and administration roles in the head offices. Up to 80 percent of all garment workers in the supply chain are women. Still, the major decision makers and money makers in the fashion industry are men.
You need to measure gender parity in your business in order for you to gain a full picture of your workforce. Mapping your employees in terms of gender, pay rates and roles will give you an idea of where your business sits. By looking at these measurables, you will be able to understand what areas need more development and training, and what risks you face. It is then time to set goals on where you want to see improvement, and develop innovative ideas in order to create equality.
There have been a variety of innovative ideas on how to close the gender gap in the business marketplace. Yoox Net-A-Porter Group (YNAP), an Italian retailer which runs global luxury online stores, recognised that most of its management roles were IT-focused, and after mapping the supply chain, discovered that it was mainly men in the upcoming training roles for these positions. YNAP decided to set goals to encourage more women into the IT and tech space in order to improve diversity in its management team. The company has since launched the Incredible Girls in Tech initiative to encourage young women to enter the tech space.
In sport, Vans teamed up with American non-profit organisation Skate Like a Girl to help break down gender bias in the traditionally male-dominated skateboarding world. Through workshops, training, skate camps and other events, the organisation aims to promote confidence and leadership in young women.
Back home in New Zealand, Westpac was surprised by its gender parity results. The company noticed that the majority of the higher-paid senior IT, finance and corporate banking roles were held by men, while women dominated the lower-paid customer service roles. Westpac has since set a goal to increase women in the top three tiers of its management structure to 50 percent by September 2025 – an increase of 37 percent. The company is also working on how to encourage more women into tech and finance roles for the future.
By realising the impact that its operations have on women and communities in its global supply chains, The Warehouse Group has partnered with the HERproject to help provide training in financial literacy, health awareness and gender equality to women in its supply chain in Bangladesh. Many garment workers around the world have no access to education or training, so don’t often understand their finances or how best to budget or save, which can have a huge impact on local communities.
If you are looking to improve your company’s gender equality measures, or communicate your efforts with consumers, partnering with organisations like The Gender Tick can provide support and show consumers what you stand for. The Gender Tick was created by Dr Kaisa Wilson, YWCA Auckland Diversity and Inclusion practitioner, and gives consumers an easy way to identify brands that align with their values on gender equality.
Gender diversity, no matter what the industry, brings a variety of benefits to any company. It can develop creative thinking and problem solving, and can bring fresh ideas and drive productive teams. It will also improve your company’s reputation.
On the eve of International Women’s Day 2020, I leave you with a quote from Barack Obama:
“I’m absolutely confident that for two years, if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything… living standards and outcomes.” – Barack Obama.