Supporting Gender Equality: Examples from Politics, Business and Academia in the UK

This policy paper aims to contribute to existing discourse on gender equality, drawing on issues raised during our three-part Women Empowerment panel series, and contributing a targetting focus on the barriers to leadership for women in politics, business, and academia.

ISBN: 978-0-9934258-1-3

FOREWORD

The Dialogue Society supports the Equality Act 2010 (Government Equalities Office 2015). We believe we have a duty to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations within our organisation. Furthermore, Dialogue Society aims to reflect its values in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 within society. Whether it is direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment or victimisation, any form of discrimination must be condemned in any area of social life. Society will be in its fully developed form when all forms of discrimination are eliminated.

The Equality Act 2010 includes legislation against many forms of discrimination. Sex discrimination is one of the areas covered by the Equality Act 2010. Sex discrimination is the unfair treatment of one as a result of their gender identity, i.e., if they are a man or a woman. Although sex discrimination can be towards both genders, women experience it many times more than men do. Additionally, although many countries have achieved significant milestones towards gender parity across education, health, economic and political systems, there remains much to be done. According to The Global Gender Gap Index 2018 report, there is a gender disparity in political empowerment, which today maintains a gap of 77.1%, and an economic participation and opportunity gap, which is the second-largest gender disparity at 41.9% globally (World Economy Forum 2019). The data illustrates that sex discrimination is one of many problems in the contemporary world. It operates negatively on a number of societal and economic levels: it divides the community, causes a lack of opportunity and representation for women, and excludes women from participation in many aspects of social life.

Equal contribution opportunities for women and men are critical for our community’s economic and societal development. The Dialogue Society aims to build dynamic and inclusive economies and societies that provide a future of opportunities for all. In order to achieve this best form of society, we believe women’s empowerment is a necessity. Women’s empowerment includes promoting professional development for women, implementing practices that empower women in the workplace, and promoting equality through community initiatives. The women’s empowerment process focuses on shaping frameworks for closing economic gender gaps, fostering diversity, and promoting women’s inclusion and equality. Furthermore, the Dialogue Society aims to increase women’s participation in the workforce, help more women advance into leadership, and close the gender gap. To this end, the Dialogue Society organised many projects, research, and panel discussions on women’s empowerment.

This report aims to inspire ongoing efforts and further action to accelerate the achievement of full gender equality via promoting women’s empowerment, recommending and implementing direct top-level policies for gender equality, and ensuring that existing policies are gender-sensitive and practices are safe from gender-based discrimination.

Finally, this report is to engage and illustrate the importance of allyship, awareness, and policy implementations that improve the lives of millions of women. We call upon every reader of this report to join the efforts of the Dialogue Society in promoting women’s empowerment for an equal society.

Executive Summary

  • Dialogue, as a tool for bottom-up research, serves as a crucial means to enrich both structure and content of policy recommendations.
  • Gender inequality in the United Kingdom is a real, lived experience in which women report experiencing disempowerment. When observed through the lens of intersectionality, it is clear that racial bias can further disadvantage women in their work setting.
  • Despite being independent work environments, navigating through political, business, and academic workplaces can result in different experiences, albeit there are overriding prejudices and difficulties seen in all fields.

Policy Recommendations

Women in Politics

  • As the representative of the United Kingdom, parliament should reflect its electorate; therefore, parliament must continue its effort to reach the current goal of ‘50:50’ representation. The government must take immediate action to enact section 106 of the Equality Act.
  • In regards to sexual harassment, the government must ensure a safe working environment and review the effectiveness of its current ‘zero tolerance’ policy. The government must also ensure a same-sex member of staff is present when a reporter of an incident comes forward; the mental and physical wellbeing of the individual coming forward must be prioritised.
  • Reforms must ensure the ‘double burden’ experienced by many women is eradicated. For this, the government must ensure a better work-family life balance, exhaust all efforts to avoid voting on Mondays and Fridays to allow more time to travel to and from Westminster, and, a thorough review of maternity leave and childcare services must be conducted.
  • All opportunities for raising awareness of gender inequality must be identified and there must be a continuation of the efforts of previous governments to highlight issues of gender representation and attitudes towards women in parliament.

Women in Business

  • Organisations and businesses must do all in their hands to ensure women are valued and supported in their work environment. All employees must complete annual diversity training to be alert to biases they may hold.
  • Organisational procedures must be subject to frequent review to uphold their responsibility in addressing issues of gender inequality. Recruitment and promotional processes must ensure gender neutrality in advertisements. Pay structures must be monitored to ensure equality between men and women; the government must reinstate gender pay gap reporting to allow employers to identify wage disparity.
  • Culturally focused strategies must be engaged to target negative stereotypes of women. The de-stigmatisation of maternity and paternity leave must be prioritised, and employers must ensure employees are not penalised for taking leave. The promotion of mixed-gender networking opportunities must be encouraged.

Women in Academia

  • Academic bodies must ensure women’s career progression is not disadvantaged by maternity leave and care responsibilities. Therefore, recommendations include reviewing expected and actual working hours, reviewing and modifying, where necessary, promotional and recruitment procedures to ensure women are not penalised for taking periods of leave, and to ensure all academic staff are aware of their rights to take paid and unpaid leave.
  • Academic bodies must ensure thorough and regular reviews of the distribution of leave taken to identify patterns of discrimination towards women. They must ensure women are allowed to gain equal access to funding for research and promote a culture within academia that values teaching and research equally.
  • Men’s understanding of and attitudes to their female colleagues have a significant impact on workplace culture; therefore, institutions must facilitate gender-awareness training as well as review the language used throughout recruitment, reviews, and promotion to ensure that gender bias and stereotypes are not promoted.
  • The encouragement of female re-writing of the experience narrative must be encouraged, and funding for research into this female re-writing within academia must be ensured.
  • Promotion of solidarity among female colleagues must be ensured through facilitated group discussions to ensure affirmations of the gendered experience to further empower women to speak out.