Embracing Gender Equity At Work

Home | Insights | Workplace Insights | Embracing Gender Equity At Work
A diverse group of colleagues having a meeting in a naturally-lit modern office.

Table of Contents


At the start of 2023, Tiger Recruitment hosted a roundtable event, bringing together a select group of HR leaders across a range of industries. Ahead of International Women’s Day 2023, the discussion focused on embracing equity in the workplace. We have consolidated our key findings and research, in hope that the topics covered will strike positive change.

Businesses that create a respectful and inclusive culture see higher levels of employee motivation, productivity, and retention. And, in today’s hiring market, where company values are now a deciding factor for jobseekers, it’s all the more critical that employers promote inclusivity for all.

Creating a roadmap for gender balance presents an opportunity to overhaul limiting practices. With mission-driven policies at the forefront, many employers are sparking up interesting ways to create greater representation and support for women throughout their careers.

Tackling limiting attitudes to gender

Nine out of ten of our roundtable attendees agreed that tackling limiting attitudes to gender starts with unconscious bias (UB).

UB often leads to wrongfully influencing an employer’s decisions in the workplace — specifically, who to hire and who to promote. Historically, people have been influenced by deep-rooted stereotypes, often leaving women on the back foot.

Studies have found that, “a major factor preventing women from being promoted is that they are consistently judged as having lower leadership potential than men.” Women are also indirectly told they are less capable than men through behaviours such as ‘mansplaining’ and ‘manterrupting’. Studies show 80% of women have experienced this at work.

At our roundtable, employers spoke openly about the benefits of UB training to mitigate these prejudices. One employer added that

this training successfully highlighted bias in their workplace and ignited the shift to a more gender-balanced workforce. According to the Harvard Business Review, training must be a long-term commitment if it’s to be effective, rather than a checkbox exercise.

In Tiger Recruitment’s DEI Recruitment Guidelines, we outline ways to eliminate bias in the hiring process, such as anonymizing CVs, introducing skills testing and using role-based score cards.

By following these specific behavioural practices, management can enforce and prevent UB from influencing decisions that impact women at work.

Action Points

  • Provide UB training for staff to better understand their biases and how they can impact the workplace.
  • Check in frequently with employees to track their progress with practising UB training techniques.
  • Follow Tiger’s DEI Recruitment Guidelines and implement techniques such as anonymizing CVs, skills testing and role-based score cards

Combatting burnout

A Balancing Act

Attendees at the roundtable discussed how working mothers struggle to find a healthy work-life balance. “The lack of policies that help spread care duties equally among partners tends to inevitably translate to women bearing the brunt of childcare”. With this in mind, it makes sense that employers should play a pivotal role in promoting equal roles between parents. While this would undoubtedly help mitigate the pressures on mothers, it would be key to destigmatising shared parental responsibilities by fathers. It’s clear that such policies would be favoured: In the UK, Aviva Insurance introduced an equal pay parental leave policy and, in 2020, 99% of fathers took paternity leave with 84% taking at least six months off to care and bond with their children.

Encouraging a pipeline of equal leadership

At our roundtable, HR leaders emphasized how women in senior roles are often faced with a decision to make — either dedicate time to the family or commit to their high-pressure role. One attendee, working in funds management, highlighted how employees simply weren’t able to switch off outside work hours — any lapses in focus could mean a financial loss to clients. They went on to explain how this resulted in men progressing much faster than women, with mothers typically taking a step back after starting a family.

Conversely, another attendee shared an example from their workplace, where a female leader had delivered a presentation a mere 10 days after giving birth. So, if the main pathways for mothers in senior positions span burnout, lack of work-life balance, or an exit from their chosen career path altogether, it goes some way to explaining why employers are losing their female leadership pipelines in droves.

What can employers do?

Nuffield Health suggests employers focus on creating a psychologically safe environment, urging staff to share their experiences with employers. Their employer training builds a positive culture around mental health, where conversations are both welcome and expected.

Cross-functional team collaboration was also discussed at the roundtable and revealed to be an effective strategy in lightening the workload for women. By creating diverse teams at work, employees share responsibilities and inspire smarter and faster strategies.

Finally, flexible working remains key to women being able to perform their jobs effectively while balancing their family lives. From job shares through to working from home, these are commonplace solutions in order to support women’s career development and mental health, whilst mitigating any loss of talent.

Action points

  • Offer above-statutory and, where possible, equal parental leave to mothers and fathers.
  • Encourage employees to open up when they are feeling overwhelmed. Give management the required training and frameworks to help manage those conversations.
  • Create gender-diverse teams and encourage collaborative work to lighten individual workloads.

Addressing the pay gap

The UN recently reported that women still earn 23% less than men worldwide. Despite decades of international legislation granting women the right to work and attend school, there are still factors preventing women from earning as much as men. The UK Government has outlined how different attributes are impacting the pay gap below.

  • Age – there is little difference in median hourly pay for male and female full-time employees under 40, but a substantial gap emerges among employees aged 40 and over. This links to parenthood, as the median hourly pay gap grows in the years after parents have their first child
  • Occupation – The gap tends to be smaller for occupations where a larger proportion of employees are women
  • The pay gap is largest in the financial and insurance industry, and smallest in the accommodation and food services industry
  • Public and private sector – for full-time workers, the pay gap is slightly smaller in the public sector than the private sector. There is a negligible gender pay gap for part-time workers in the private sector, which contrasts with a large part-time pay gap in the public sector
  • Pay – The highest earners, generally in senior roles, have a larger pay gap than the low-income earners

Negotiating pay

Negotiating Pay Offering greater salary transparency is a strategy employers could introduce to reduce the gap. In an Independent article, researchers, who polled 1,000 working women, stated that millions of women in the UK could be losing out on higher salaries due to not conferring about pay.

Research from the UK Government also suggests that women are less likely to negotiate their pay due to uncertainty around what constitutes a reasonable offer. They advise employers to clearly communicate salary ranges to encourage negotiation and equal pay opportunities.

Over 80% (81.8%) of HR leaders agreed with this statement and detailed the hiring practices they had pursued to level out the gap. They agreed advertising salary ranges was the most effective strategy.

Taking transparency one step further, New York City has implemented laws to promote equality in the workplace. The Pay Transparency Act, enacted in late 2022, dictates that employers must advertise the salary range on job listings. It’s expected that other global leaders will follow suit by implementing similar laws.

Eliminating bias in the recruitment process

An HR leader at the roundtable event used a system to remove all names from candidate CVs. This eliminated any possibility of gender bias and allowed hirers to judge CVs exclusively on experience and skills alone.

Other HR leaders made it known that they were maintaining a diverse pool in their recruitment search. Part of this meant promoting their organisation’s DEI policies and work culture in job advertisements. One employer explained how, by promoting facilities and allowances for return-to-work (RTW) mothers, they had increased their female talent pool. Attendees reiterated how benefits that supported flexibility were prioritised by working mothers.

Nearly three quarters of HR leaders (72%) said that women were more likely to underplay their skill set and ability in the recruitment process. To ensure a greater pool of female candidates, most employers were considering skill-based assessments and blind CVs to encourage inclusive hiring.

Action points

  • Be transparent about salary ranges when advertising vacancies
  • Ensure your recruitment processes are unbiased — consider using skill-based assessments or removing names from CVs
  • Promote DEI policies that benefit women to acquire and retain female employees

Supporting return-to-work mothers

Roundtable attendees discussed how RTW mothers often struggle to confidently measure their worth during the hiring process. From undervaluing their skills and experience in interviews, to feeling discouraged by the gaps in their CV, it is a common issue. Additionally, when there isn’t enough support in place, retaining RTW mothers can also be challenging.

Flexibility is key to improving inclusivity within the recruitment process. Specifically, HR leaders explained how offering flexible interview times makes it easier for mothers to find childcare solutions in time for interviews. One attendee added that a previous candidate had accepted their offer of employment purely due to their flexibility.

Roundtable attendees also discussed how the skills developed in parenthood were often transferable in business, particularly in leadership roles. They had been impressed by RTW mothers who had carefully defined parenthood attributes as sets of skills in their applications.

Once new mothers are hired or have returned from maternity leave, they require extra support to ensure they stay. HR leaders ranked flexible benefits like hybrid working and flexitime as the top strategies used to increase job satisfaction. While these strategies are important to mothers, some attendees explained how staff without children felt underrepresented when special policies are applied to parents. Because of this, many HR leaders were happy to offer company-wide flexibility, thereby preventing childcare from being stigmatized.

In the UK, laws around maternity and paternity leave highlight the expectation for women to take time out of their careers to care for children. Comparatively, the opportunity for parental leave in the US is only given to employees in larger companies and there is no requirement to provide pay. Most employers at the roundtable were either looking to or were already offering above-statutory paternity leave.

Action points

  • Be flexible with interview scheduling to allow mothers to find suitable childcare. This will attract a greater and more diverse pool of candidates
  • Implement policies that afford parents flexibility such as flexitime and hybrid working. Include all staff to ensure equality for those who choose not to have children
  • Offer above-statutory parental leave to ensure both parents are given the opportunity to bond and care for children

Women in STEM

In the UK, girls outperform boys in STEM subjects at age 16, while male students are twice as likely to take maths, over four times more likely to take physics and over eight times more likely to take computer science subjects at 18.1

These statistics show that women are no less capable, but external factors prevent them from pursuing careers in the industries. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), girls are systematically tracked away from jobs in STEM. They report this being due to teachers passing down the view that these fields are typically masculine, alongside a lack of female role models to inspire their interest. Sadly, the few women who pursue these roles are often later met with male-dominated and often exclusionary workplace cultures.

Businesses and governments will need to work harder to attract and retain women in STEM, if the gender gap is to be repaired.

Employers can encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM by providing work experience opportunities to female high school students, as well as forging partnerships with key education providers. Retention of female staff is also key, which can be improved by providing a supportive community of STEM female professionals; encouraging collaborative teamwork on projects; and offering a robust mentoring program that champions women in leadership.

Action points

  • Provide work experience opportunities to high school students
  • Foster a community of STEM female professionals
  • Create diverse teams to work on projects
  • Develop a mentor program to give women role models and teach them the skills to move into leadership positions

Promoting women in leadership

Roundtable attendees discussed the importance of career development strategies targeted at encouraging female promotion. Some of the ways they are doing this include internal mentoring schemes, where junior employees are assigned a female mentor.

These mentor schemes offer a myriad of skills for junior employees, including assertiveness and negotiation. HR leaders added that these initiatives have created a community which has encouraged greater employee retention and collaboration.

One attendee went on to say that, in her workplace, only two out of 14 managers were female. An industry-wide issue, they had taken part in the Future Female Fund Manager’s scheme, in hope of achieving greater gender balance.

The scheme puts emphasis on the skills needed beyond technical competence, therefore complementing the existing CFA qualification.

In addition to the Future Female Fund Manager’s scheme, there are many other global programs designed to help women excel in their careers, such as:

According to PWC, if an employer is to truly prioritise the advancement of women in leadership, they must change how the tournament is scored, which means revising the criteria for promotion, so that women aren’t systematically disadvantaged.

Employers need to evaluate what is expected implicitly and explicitly, and be more transparent with their employees. It’s often the case that employers hand out promotions based on whether an employee is perceived as a ‘go-getter’. In other words, those who are more vocal with their accomplishments are more likely to be promoted.

To combat this, management should ensure that a framework exists for all staff to speak up, present ideas or announce achievements.

Watch our Women in Leadership Webinar

Action points

  • Foster a female mentorship scheme to develop junior talent’s leadership skills and encourage promotion into management positions
  • Base internal promotions on quantifiable achievements
  • Provide a framework for all staff to speak up, including quiet achievers
  • Encourage career development through networking and mentorship programs for women

Women’s health

Despite women making up a large percentage of the workforce, female health continues to be a taboo topic. Many women still feel uncomfortable talking about health issues with their employer, especially when it comes to discussing gynaecological concerns. Some managers also feel embarrassed or uncertain about how to approach certain subjects. This reinforces the notion that women may hide issues from their employers, which could result in women’s performance and wellbeing becoming affected.

Although the employers at the roundtable acknowledged that improvements had been made to normalise gynaecological health at work, they believed there was still more to be done.

Over 70% of attendees agreed that workplaces should support women going through menopause. One employer explained how they are holding a menopause summit, where employees speak openly about their personal challenges. This encourages a supportive workplace community and normalises the topic.

Some of our HR leaders also mentioned they were introducing fertility benefits such as surrogacy leave. UNICEF recommends that employers offer flexibility for women to attend medical appointments and, where health insurance is offered, women’s health issues should also be covered under those policies.

Action points

  • Promote an environment where women feel comfortable talking about health
  • Encourage men to support their partners by attending medical appointments
  • Ensure health insurance policies cover women’s health issues


Our roundtable discussion on embracing equity at work revealed a number of key strategies to help employers create equal opportunities for all.

Initially, HR leaders identified the importance of eliminating unconscious bias towards gender in the recruitment process — an issue that can really only be combatted with a robust training and re-education programme. Additionally, techniques such as anonymizing CVs, skills testing and role-based score cards were found to be key to removing biases in hiring.

Roundtable attendees described how mothers often fall into the role of primary caregiver and may likely be faced with the choice between their senior-level job or raising a family. Those employers who implement above-statutory parental leave policies and put in practice solutions to support working mothers, will reap the rewards in terms of improved longevity and staff retention.

Studies show that women are less likely to negotiate pay, due to uncertainty about what constitutes a reasonable offer. If businesses advertise salary ranges, however, there’s a higher chance of closing the gender pay gap.

New York City has recently implemented laws around pay transparency to combat this, with hopes other leaders will soon follow suit.

The argument for equity is clear and supported by a number of studies, analyses and surveys around the world. In achieving this, businesses can expect happier staff, reduced turnover, and enhanced profits. Can Tiger Recruitment help you achieve better equity? Get in touch. You can also request a copy of our DEI Recruitment Guidelines here.

Author Rebecca Siciliano Tiger Recruitment Team

Sign up for the latest workplace insights.

Are you: