We need to talk about women

The first North of Tyne Mayor will be elected on 2 May.  It’s an important role for the area, and, with an all-male line up of candidates, we’re hoping that gender equality will be part of the strategy to build a strong economic future.

There is already a lot being said around pledges to create jobs, expand businesses, attract investment, and support start-ups, which of course are all essential for the future prosperity and success of the area.  What is also essential though is making sure that there is gender parity – a strong regional economy needs to be 50:50. Gender equality shouldn’t be treated as just a ‘women’s issue’ or a tick box exercise – there is now a wealth of reports and evidence that show that gender balance in the workplace is ultimately better for business; the bottom line is that it makes businesses more profitable and boosts the economy:

·     Organisations with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, and 8 times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

·     Gender-based workplace discrimination costs the UK economy  £123bn per year.

·     Bridging the gender gap in the UK by 2025 would add as much as £150bn to the economy.

·     Diversity and inclusion is the number one HR practice with the highest impact on business performance

·     The UK economy will need two million new managers by 2024 – and 1.5 million will need to be women.

Here in the North East, while there are some companies and initiatives making a difference, we still have a long way to go:

Latest figures show that the gender pay gap is widening here, reflecting the national trend, with the first set of figures showing that three-quarters of firms in the region paying men more than women.

When asked in the region, a survey by Investors in People found that:

76% of respondents agreed that gender discrimination exists in the workplace

27% said they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace

Men in Newcastle are more likely to be managers and directors, and work in STEM jobs, women are more likely to be in admin roles and work in health care.

The problems of gender inequality and the problems it causes are well known and well documented, and there is a wealth of evidence that proves the benefits of having gender balance in the workplace.  We can give you all the stats and facts. But what we really need now is to see action being driven at the top, with strong strategic leadership and vision together with genuine commitment and collaboration to tackling the issues.

To paraphrase Ban Ki Moon, ‘the North of Tyne will never realise 100% of its goals if 50% of its people cannot realise their full potential.’