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Businesses that close the gender gap will reap the rewards

23 Mar 2016

The Institute of Directors has highlighted a number of measures which will help address the gender pay gap and encourage firms to boost the number of women in senior executive positions in response to the publication of a review into women in finance, led by Jayne-Anne Gadhia, CEO of Virgin Money, and a Women and Equalities Committee report into the gender pay gap.

Seamus Nevin, Head of Employment and Skills Policy at the IoD, said:

“The lack of women in executive leadership positions is a real problem. Any proposals which encourage companies to take this seriously and help women climb the career ladder are welcome. The key cause of the gender pay gap is the fact that too few women occupy the most senior and well-paid roles so it is good to see proposals focus on improving the talent pipeline.

“There are many things companies can do without the heavy-hand of government intervention to address this. Increased and more intuitive flexible working practices will undoubtedly be part of the solution. Businesses that want to harness the full potential of their workforce know this and the current framework recognises it. All staff already have the legal right, after they have been in a role for six months, to request flexible working arrangements if they choose to. Switching this round to make all roles, by default, flexible, would be a massive burden in terms of extra and unnecessary bureaucracy for firms.

“Linking bonuses and salaries to performance on equality targets is an interesting idea, which might sharpen the minds of key decision makers to the issue. However, it must result in meaningful change and, if necessary, an overhaul of both internal and external recruitment practices. We would not want to see managers promoting women just because their bonus depended on it. For instance, large companies should consider having at least one woman on the interview panel, and, wherever possible, using gender blind CVs and application forms

“Few would deny that the long-term solution to the gender pay gap starts in how we educate young men and women. This means improving not only the quality of the curriculum, to include a tighter focus on STEM subjects and business accounting, but also more career guidance in schools and universities. Governments and employers also need to adopt a more open approach to life-long learning to enable people to re-train and up-skill throughout their working lives, helping them start new careers at 40 or 60, not just after school or university.

“Of course, parliament itself could take a lead on flexible working practices – regularly holding votes at 10pm is hardly ideal for working mums and dads.”

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