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What is fueling the gender pay gap?

Today, I want to tackle a subject very close to my heart—the gender pay gap. You’ve heard of it, I’ve heard of it, and chances are, you’ve been affected by it. As much as I’d like to say that it’s a relic of the past, the stats say otherwise. According to the Office for National Statistics, the gender pay gap in the UK still hovers around 14.9%. I find that unacceptable, and you should, too.

So, what’s fueling this gap? A multitude of things, but today, let’s focus on a key driver that’s often overlooked—the lack of flexible and part-time work options for women.

 

Flexible Work: A Game-Changer for Women

When we think about flexible work, some people treat it like a “nice to have,” almost like an extra perk similar to a free gym membership or office snacks. In reality, for many women, especially mothers like myself, flexible work is a necessity.

I can’t tell you the number of talented women I’ve seen pushed out of the workplace because they couldn’t meet the rigid 9-5, Monday-to-Friday demands while also juggling childcare and other responsibilities. The traditional work setup perpetuates a cycle where women are far more likely to end up in lower-paying, less stable roles simply because those are the jobs that offer the flexibility they need.

Research from the Women’s Equality Party points out that offering flexible work options can go a long way toward closing the gender pay gap. Women who can work flexible hours can take on more responsibilities and, as a result, often end up earning more.

Now – let me take you back to my story. I was made redundant from a job I loved in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. I had been working part-time in a Big 4 consulting firm, recruiting their HR Consultants. But, like countless others, I became an economic casualty.

 

The Reality of Part-Time Job Hunting

What no one warns you about part-time job hunting is just how soul-crushing it is. To sustain my family-friendly work hours, I discovered, like so many others – that my only option was to take a significant career and pay cut. When I told recruiters about my part-time requirements, the options they presented were, in most cases, full-time or nothing. Some even ghosted me—how rude, right? My daughters were toddlers, and the thought of missing their precious milestones was unbearable.

 

My Response: Launching Investing in Women

That experience led me to create Investing in Women, a platform aimed at bridging the gap between talented individuals seeking flexible, part-time, or remote jobs and companies eager to tap into this underutilised pool of expertise. It used my recruitment skills and experience in a way I felt I could really make a difference and help others.

 

Part-Time Doesn’t Mean Half-Committed

But let’s talk about part-time work. There’s this stereotype that part-time workers are less committed or less capable. Can we just toss that out the window, please? I’ve worked both in-house at one of the Big 4 and in recruitment agencies for over 15 years, and let me tell you, commitment is not a factor in how many hours you’re glued to your desk.

Part-time work allows people to contribute their vast skills to the workforce while also fulfilling other commitments, which, particularly for mothers (75% of whom now work), often include unpaid labour like childcare and household chores. Shouldn’t we, in 2023, acknowledge and accommodate this reality?

 

The Business Case for Flexible Work

Flexible and part-time work isn’t just an individual desire; it’s good for business, too. Here are the top 6 reasons businesses should embrace flexible working: 

  • Increased Productivity: Studies show that productivity peaks at around 30 hours per week, making part-time employees more productive.
  • Broader Talent Pool: By opening up to flexible working patterns, you appeal to 87% of all employees who wish to work flexibly.
  • Enhanced Customer Service: Some employees prefer unconventional working hours, which can be an asset for businesses needing to accommodate varying customer needs.
  • Higher Staff Retention: Flexible work arrangements increase job satisfaction and, by extension, reduce staff turnover.
  • Reduced Absence Rates: Flexible work has been shown to reduce absence rates from 12% to 2%.
  • Competitive Edge: Diverse Boards outperform their rivals, and flexible working contributes to board-level diversity.

Parkinson’s Law and Productivity

There’s a principle known as Parkinson’s Law, which suggests that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” In simpler terms, give someone fewer hours to complete a task, and they will be more productive. For part-time workers, especially parents, who have a hard nursery pick-up, every day is like the day before annual leave — productive, efficient, and focused.

 

Let’s Make a Change

The economic and social landscapes are changing. The pandemic has demonstrated that remote and flexible working is not just feasible but also beneficial. As we look ahead, it’s essential to advocate for systemic changes that support all types of work and workers.

The choice shouldn’t be between career and family; it should be career and family. I made it my mission to ensure that this becomes a reality, and that’s why Investing in Women exists today.

Investing in Women isn’t just a job board; it’s a community. We’re here to empower women, to give them the tools they need to succeed in the workforce, and, yes, to help close that gender pay gap. It’s about providing opportunities women might not have had access to otherwise.

 

Join Us in Making a Change

If you’re an employer, I invite you to consider how offering part-time and flexible roles can not only enrich your team but also contribute to a more equitable world – and if you can offer flexible working, please add it to your job advert. There are so many people looking for flexible work for all sorts of reasons. By including flexible working options in your job adverts, you show you are a caring and inclusive organisation – and stand out against the 75% of job adverts that don’t mention flexibility.

If you’re a job seeker, don’t settle for a role that demands you sacrifice your family life for your professional one—you can have both.

And for everyone, it’s time to shift our mindset. Flexible work isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity for closing the gender pay gap. Let’s all be a part of the solution.

Together, we can and will close the gender pay gap.

 

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We do not provide professional help to individuals in urgent crisis. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 999 immediately. For support with suicidal thoughts, consider contacting the Samaritans UK, a trusted organisation specialising in confidential assistance during emotional distress. Your safety is paramount and there are professionals available to provide the urgent help required in such critical situations.
We do not provide professional help to individuals in urgent crisis. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 999 immediately. For support with suicidal thoughts, consider contacting the Samaritans UK, a trusted organisation specialising in confidential assistance during emotional distress. Your safety is paramount and there are professionals available to provide the urgent help required in such critical situations.