Companies need to treat their women better—it’s that simple

In the United Kingdom, women earn less than men, and only occupy a small minority of prestigious positions in corporations. Pavita Cooper calls for the implementation of simple changes that can offset these inequalities in the workplace and boardroom. Banner image: Shutterstock/pasya firmansyah

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In the United Kingdom, women earn 15.5% less than men, according to the ONS. That means women earn just 84 pence for every pound their male colleagues do. Even worse, nine out of ten women work for a company that pays them less than the men.

There are only eight female CEOs in the FTSE 100, and just 16 female CFOs—the role that usually leads to CEO. And 18 members of the FTSE 100 still think it’s acceptable to have all-male executive committees.

For women of colour like me, things are even worse. Only 5.4% of board positions in the top 100 United Kingdom firms are held by women of colour, despite the Parker Review target of at least one person from an ethnic minority on every board by 2021.

Read more on the Forum Network: Unique but Systemic: Five Principles for Leading Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion by Dr. Rohini Anand, Principal and CEO, Rohini Anand LLC

International Equal Pay Day on 18 September 2021 is focusing my attention on all of these numbers, and they are weighing heavy on my mind.

I’ve worked in Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion for some of the world’s biggest banks for more than 20 years, and I now sit on boards as well as advise corporate clients on how to boost diversity and inclusion across their businesses. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

The frustration is that there are simple changes companies can make that would result in massive improvements—not only in closing the gender pay gap but also female representation at every rung of the management ladder leading to executive leadership.

 And the first thing that should be done is to pay attention to data and look across every management level to identify where the pay gaps creep in. Then action must be taken to dismantle those obstacles that hold women back or encourage them to walk away.

More support for parents of young children—mothers and fathers—is key. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Creating a culture where flexible working practices are not merely tolerated but embraced is part of the solution. Encouraging men to take paternity leave, start later to do the school run or stay home when their children get sick would shift some of the domestic burden off of women’s shoulders. It also sends a powerful message to staff that they’re valued for being parents, not censured.

Read more on the Forum Network: Breaking with the Male Breadwinner: Female economic empowerment for gender equality by Eva Lindh, Regular Member, Swedish Parliament

It all comes down to what CEOs and chairs choose to make business priorities and build into their strategy. I’m the deputy chair of gender diversity campaign the 30% Club, and I’m so pleased chairs and CEOs of more than 1,000 of the world’s biggest companies have signed up to our aspirational targets of beyond 30% female representation at board at executive committee level. In doing so, they are committing to make inclusive workplaces a priority.

The problem is that not enough of their peers are doing the same. They are failing to recognise the long-term advantages such a strategic focus can deliver.

Women make around 85% of day-to-day buying decisions. When companies pay their women better, promote them, recruit them and provide them with the same opportunities to progress as their male colleagues, they perform better. The women and the companies. Women end up with more money in their pocket—which is good for them, their families, their employers, the economy and society. It’s that simple.


Watch the video and learn about how the OECD is tackling the gender pay gap with Valerie Frey, Economist, Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD.

Related Topics

Gender Equality Tackling COVID-19 Income Inequality 

Pavita Cooper

Deputy Chair of Gender Diversity Campaign the 30% Club, a leading talent and diversity expert, the 30% Club

Pavita Cooper is the deputy chair of gender diversity campaign the 30% Club and a leading talent and diversity expert. She has more than 25 years’ experience as an executive talent leader across a range of multi-sector global blue-chip organisations, including Shell, Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group. In addition she chairs CMI Race and is a trustee of the Old Vic theatre. Pavita was named Woman of the Year at the Asian Business Awards in September 2017. She is a member of the Whole Education Board and appears on the Disability 100 Power list.