While International Women’s Day gives us a crucial opportunity to highlight the challenges faced by women and the need to continue working hard to achieve gender parity, it is also a time to celebrate all the fantastic achievements of women and the benefits that diversity brings to us all.
Women in the workplace
Female employment has been on the rise over the last 50 years with over 75% of women aged 16-64 now in work, compared to just over 50% back in 1971 when the Office for National Statistics first started reporting the figures.
We’re by no means where we need to be in terms of gender balance and equality in the working world, in some countries less so than others, but it is encouraging to see more women being represented in the workplace. This may partially be down to a number of legislative acts that have been brought in over the past decade, including the Equality Act 2010 and the Shared Parental Leave Regulations.
The shift towards being able to request more flexible working has played a part in this, too. Having the option to work part time, work from home, or work hours that aren’t your regular 9 to 5 means that women - and men - are able to balance work and family life more effectively.
Women in leadership
We’re proud to have a strong proportion of females working in leadership roles across the Bruntwood Group. From improving workplace wellbeing to better performance levels, the positive impact of female representation with organisational structures has been well recorded.
To help attract and retain women leaders, businesses should be willing to adapt, whether that’s by appreciating breadth of skills and not always depth (men are less likely to have taken career breaks); helping to lift women; offering benefits beyond pay; breaking the male line of succession; or encouraging and supporting women into STEM.
It has been shown that having more female leaders within businesses has a positive impact on employee engagement and retention. Organisations with a higher percentage of female employees have cited more enjoyable work, opportunities to make a difference and the flexibility to fit their job around other key areas of their life.
When other women see female leaders within an organisational structure, they themselves are more likely to stay within the business. The support and acknowledgement of potential for progression as a female within any business boosts that company’s appeal.
Sarah Martin, CEO of Unify Energy, shares the positive impact women within Bruntwood have had on her, even before joining the company officially. “I’ve worked with Bruntwood for about a decade, even though I only formally joined last year. There’s been a lot of women who have supported me even when I was only a supplier: Kate Vokes, Ciara Keeling, Jen Atkins. They’re all women that any time I have a coffee with them, I feel really inspired,” says Sarah. “They’ve gone above and beyond to help me and to be kind. And sometimes it’s just about being kind.”
The benefits of diversity
A diverse workforce, and the inclusive culture that is built with this, has a positive impact not just on colleagues, but customers and communities, too. Within the workplace, having a diverse team allows people to see the world differently, taking on board the thoughts and experiences of people with backgrounds different to their own. This wealth of opinion helps to spark new, creative and innovative ideas.
It also allows businesses to improve its understanding of its customer base. Only by having a truly diverse and representative workforce can any business expect to fully cater to the needs of its customers. Through diverse and inclusive cultures, businesses can benefit from a great reach and impact, by being open-minded and knowledgeable about the communities it serves.
Of course this goes beyond gender diversity, and true diversity and all of the value it brings also encompasses ethnicity, sexuality, background and much more. It’s important that all of this is brought on board when developing a workforce to ensure all views are heard.
Building a diverse and inclusive culture
Our purpose at Bruntwood is to ‘create thriving cities’ and we believe that the most creative and vibrant environments are those with diverse communities.
Our cities’ and our business’ biggest asset is our people. That’s why we’re committed to being a truly diverse and inclusive workplace, where all of our colleagues are encouraged and empowered to speak up, share their experiences and ideas. And part of that we have set ourselves robust targets to increase female representation throughout the business and address the gender pay gap through our diversity and inclusion agenda.
We’ve taken huge steps in redressing the gender balance within our business, in what we know is traditionally a very male-dominated industry. We are well underway with more initiatives to help build on this, and improve female colleagues’ experience at Bruntwood, but we know there is still a way to go. Our comprehensive plan will see disparity completely removed and create a fundamental shift in culture for everyone at Bruntwood.