Heap says some battles have been won, but the gender war is far from over. She says a concerted effort is required from government, business and women themselves to find a long-term solution.
Government action is key, says Heap. “There have to be regulations around this as well as a way to force companies to comply with the rules. The UK, for example, recently implemented legislation that obliges companies of a certain size to disclose equality gaps.”
“Companies must be aware of gender bias and enact policies to counter it. They must ensure that pay rises and salary bands are set according to fair criteria and performance, in other words it should be a meritocracy, not a genderocracy.”
This is not just touchy-feely advice, says Heap, since it is “well established” that better diversified companies perform better.
She points to the Credit Suisse Research Institute’s report, released this month, which reviewed 2,360 companies globally and found that those with female directors outperformed those who did not have women on the board on a number of measures, including return on equity, average growth and price book value multiples.
“The bottom line is that companies with at least one female director have registered better share price performance than those companies without women for the last six years,” says Heap.
Awareness and vigilance around gender inequality are very important, adds Heap, since “significant equality gaps come from the fact that men are more bullish when it comes to negotiating pay rises”.
This is where Heap advises women to do their bit. Her advice to women in the workplace is: Don’t be afraid to negotiate, don’t under-sell yourself, learn to negotiate ‘like a man’.
Go for the promotion, she says, “Who cares if you’re planning to have a baby, or only meet nine out of 10 of the job requirements?”
“Ask yourself what would a man do in the circumstances, and you will probably find that he would lean in and take the seat at the table.” DM