Does gender equality really create a better business?

Does gender equality really create a better business?
Photo: Charlotte Woodworth, campaign co-ordinator at the BITC

UK financial companies are making headway in terms of diversity and inclusion, but what more needs to be done?

FTAdviser spoked to Charlotte Woodworth, campaign co-ordinator at corporate membership organisation Business in the Community.

She explained the importance of challenging traditional gender roles, and how being more flexible can benefit both businesses and wider society.

FTAdviser: How does gender stereotyping affect men and women in balancing work with their ability to provide care? 

Charlotte Woodworth: Stereotypes, or old-fashioned ideas around, for example, whether men or women can both 'care', can blight both men and women’s lives, at work and at home. 

They undermine women’s ability to prosper at work, as they are perceived as less committed than men, and can struggle to combine careers with caring responsibilities that legislation and workplace policies depict as largely theirs and theirs alone to manage.

Men can find they are locked out of playing a fuller role on the home front, and are expected to prioritise earning above all else, regardless of whether they want to. 

We urgently need to see business, and government, set a tone more in keeping with contemporary attitudes.

They need to be supporting more men to care, while ensuring that working cultures embrace the sort of flexibility that people with caring responsibilities, of all genders, have said they need in order to flourish. 

FTA: Is there a connection between these gendered stereotypes and race/culture? 

CW: We cannot consider gender equality without applying an intersectional lens. Otherwise, we risk only thinking about ‘one type’ of woman and fail to understand that we are all more than one identity.

On caring specifically, our most recent research at Business In the Community, in conjunction with Ipsos, found that while women were significantly more likely than men to struggle when it came to combining work and care, there was also a skew in terms of the impact on those from black, Asian, mixed race or other ethnically diverse backgrounds.

One in two carers from these backgrounds told us they had not applied for a job or promotion because of concerns about combining the role with caring responsibilities.

This clearly shows employers as well as government need to recognise that ensuring people can better combine work and care is not just a gender equality issue: it is also a race equality issue.  

FTA: How has the Covid-19 pandemic opened up discussions in relation to the flexibility of work, and how does this extend to carers who want careers?

CW: The pandemic has let the flexible working genie out of the bottle. But we have a way to go before truly flexible working, considering not just location, but also working patterns, is the norm.