The average gender pay gap in businesses across Europe is 14.8%. A significant proportion of businesses have a gender pay gap that favours men – 78% in the UK for example. A large proportion of this gap is attributable to the fact there are more men in senior roles than women, therefore the average hourly wage is lower for women than for men.

Whilst you might not have recognised it yet, your business is already suffering from having a gender pay gap, in multiple alarming ways.

84% of senior professionals believe that having a gender pay gap damages the reputation of organisation in the eyes of prospective clients and talent alike.

In a survey by BMG Research 56% women said that the existence of the gender pay gap in their organisation would lower their motivation and commitment towards their work and employer. Low motivation in staff is a cause of reduced productivity and higher staff turnover. In fact, 46% of women said they would be less likely to stay with their current employer if there was reported a gender pay gap.

Attracting good talent for your team is already hard and when 76% of women say they look for positive role models similar to them when accepting a new job, can you really afford to avoid solving this problem?

The Benefits of Gender Diversity

If those facts are concerning to you then the good news is there are so many benefits to building a gender diverse team and it’s entirely achievable if you put the work in.

For a start there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to show that diverse teams make better and more innovative decisions. A study featured in HBR of more than 1800 professionals and 40 case studies in the USA demonstrated that teams with inherent diversity as well as acquired diversity were 45% more likely to outperform and out innovate compared to those without these diverse characteristics.

For me one of the most crucial benefits is the increased ability to attract and retain the best talent. The war for talent is growing evermore important as technology takes over the less creative tasks we perform at work. Now when we hire we’re looking for creative thinking from innovative team members to keep our businesses growing and thriving. PwC has found that 77% of CEOs say a lack of access to top talent is the top threat

facing their business. Gender balance is increasingly becoming a key requirement for job candidates. Over 60% of women expect companies to actively display their commitment to gender diversity and look for this when considering employment.

If you’re not moved by the moral argument, then the boost to financial performance will surely convince you. The World Economic Forum estimates that global GDP would increase by US$trn by 2025 if we were to close the gender pay gap in economic participation by 25% over that period. Companies with above-average diversity within their management teams have innovation revenue of 45% in fact in order to experience a significant jump in innovation revenue, leadership teams need to be at least 20% female. In a survey of 1000 companies in 12 countries featured in their 2018 report ‘Delivering through Diversity’, McKinsey showed that companies in the top quartile forgeneder diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to outperform their competitors in the bottom quartile.

Having a team that represents your customers is surely the smart move. Women make up to 80% of purchase decisions (in most product categories) so understanding how women might perceive a product or service is key to understanding your market and route to success.

Starting to Tackle the Problem

All of this is pretty convincing so why aren’t all companies focussed on making the changes needed to ensure their business is successful in the future?

I think there are many reasons but the main one is it’s perceived to be too hard to own the problem and too difficult and expensive to make the changes needed and so it is not prioritised.

With increasing pressure on companies to show progress in this area, companies are spending money trying to “fix their D&I”, but most of their investment land in activities that focus on repairing their reputation rather than on fixing the underlying problems.

Creating and maintaining a gender diverse team isn’t simply a marketing exercise. Publishing content for International Women’s Day about how well you value and treat women without outlining an action plan to close your gender pay gap and build a truly gender equal team is not going to cut it.

In order to really tackle your gender pay gap and gender diversity issues the most senior leaders in the business need to own and prioritize the work needed to solve them and provide budget to ensure this work is successful.

In order to get started we recommend the following.

Map and measure outcomes of your current processes that involve hiring, induction and career progression – how many women are getting through. Examine your processes carefully. Where is bias (conscious or not) affecting the decisions that are made?

Talk to your female employees and try to understand their experience with your workplace and processes, especially ask them about what barrier they have encountered. Ultimately this work takes time. There is no silver bullet and if your company is to survive and thrive, you must start now.

At She Wins offers consultancy and training to businesses aiming to achieve gender diversity and closing their gender pay gap. Clients include PwC, Sky, Publicis Groupe and Deliveroo.

Clare Sutcliffe is a global ambassador and supporter of UNLEASH, the biggest global gathering of the HR and tech community