There are more women in the workplace than ever before. More of them are highly qualified compared to previous generations, more believe that they can be what they want to be. Yet in reality there still exists a gender pay gap  , amongst other gender inequalities in the workplace.

In an effort to improve gender equality the government recently published a set of guidelines  encouraging voluntary gender reporting. The reporting framework has been developed by the Government Equalities Office and the guidance for employers by ACAS. It gives a step-by-step approach for employers to identify the barriers facing their female employees, take action to address the issues identified, and report publicly on their progress.

It is hoped that it will encourage companies to improve their gender equality procedures overall. Research has suggested that by having more women on the board of directors a company can have advanced results such as a 42% higher return in sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity, compared to rival companies who employ more men.

The interesting and perhaps experimental  framework gives a company the opportunity to report on its progresses with the aim of advancing transparency in the area overall. Companies that subscribe to this are more likely to attract the top female talent and in so doing stand an enhanced chance of improving their business in the longer term. It is important that this is an exercise adopted for the right reasons and not as a marketing campaign. And it is the reporting itself that will differentiate between those companies keen to make a go of improving their gender equality and those less so.

Since the guidelines are not binding in law it is up to the company concerned whether or not it adopts them. The Equality Act 2010, however, is of course binding and requires public sector organisations to consider gender equality within their workplaces and to publish relevant gender equality data. It is is hoped that this transparency will act as a driver to tackle gender inequality.

The government has also introduced a number of other actions to encourage more women into the work place and in particular, to occupy some of the higher calibre roles. These include making it easier for women to return to work after having children by offering flexible working hours and parental leave when necessary. A smart business will adopt these guidelines and increase its chances of attracting the best female talent and with it some of the better returns.

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