Through the Looking Glass Ceiling: How government initiatives are creating better employment opportunities for women

April 13, 2022

4 min read

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What's going on here?

Two initiatives have been launched this International Women’s Day to accelerate employment opportunities for women and promote greater pay transparency.

What does this mean?

The UK Government is spearheading an exciting movement by launching a pilot scheme whereby employers who choose to participate will publish salaries on all of their job adverts in an effort to close the salary gap between men and women and promote pay transparency. Baroness Stedman-Scott provides her evidence which clearly shows that women are in a stronger position to negotiate pay on a “fairer basis” when salary ranges are listed on a job advert. A Glassdor survey was cited when “68% of people” admitted that salary was the “most important factor” that they looked for when sifting through job applications. Furthermore, 58% of women noted how they felt that had they not been questioned about their salary history during the recruitment process, they would have received better pay to what they were currently earning.

Highlighting a clear issue, the Government now seeks to address this by working with employers who have opted into the scheme to develop a universal methodology that can be adopted across the board. The desired result is that businesses can stop relying on questions about pay history when they recruit new employees whilst also being able to provide legitimate pay information at the initial stage of recruitment.

Alongside this, there is also a focus on women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers. The Government is launching a second initiative, a new returners programme which will help women who work in this sector come back into employment in a more seamless manner after a break. The Government will work with organisations to help them recruit, and more importantly retain, “talented staff who are often overlooked” if there is a gap on their CV. For women who have taken a career break, the Government will provide considerable training and support to allow them to transition back into the workforce in a way that will help to mitigate the challenges that they may have previously faced.

What's the big picture effect?

Although this really does seem like it was a long time coming, we must celebrate how the UK Government is working towards progress by launching these schemes. Such efforts can actually have direct positive effects and genuinely go a long way to empowering women in the workplace. It is clear that the Government has recognised how many employers do not have agreed pay scales and that “ambiguous pay policies and historic pay decisions” make it difficult to be transparent during the recruitment process. It is a lot harder to include salary information when your company does not have a set criterion to refer to.

This practice can be recognised within the commercial sphere quite clearly. Agreed pay scales may be easy to find at the graduate level but after the initial stages of someone’s career it is difficult to locate specific pay policies. Recruitment becomes very specific to the individual, which unfortunately can include salary history and discretion playing a more significant factor than necessary. Considering the way that the commercial sector has revolutionised how we work after the pandemic with many businesses following new hybrid models, pay transparency seems to be a natural next step into ensuring that companies are recruiting the best talent. Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, supports this, stating how “organisations will be better placed to attract and retain a wider range of candidates” by sharing salaries at the very beginning of an application.

Beyond ensuring that organisations have retained the best talent, these initiatives will be key to fostering a healthy working environment for women. They will remove the stigma around salaries and allow people to discuss these issues openly. This may have some initial negative consequences on employers as colleagues within their businesses begin to realise the discrepancies between their salaries. There may even be an increased obligation on these businesses not only administratively, but also to rethink their pay in order to keep their workers happy. However, once these hurdles are overcome, businesses are likely to have harnessed a healthier work environment.

Hopefully with more action taken, women will no longer be confined to such strict pathways or have to make decisions regarding whether or not they can take time off. The hope is that many can now choose to have gaps on their CV with the reassurance that it will not hinder their career prospects in the future. Ultimately, while there is still a long way to go, this is an incredibly positive step towards women being granted the same freedoms in the workplace as men and transparency in the job search process.

Report written by Rida Ahmed

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