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International Women's Day 2020

Today we are celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD). IWD is celebrated on 8th March every year with the global focus on gender equality and the celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women to date. It is really important to look back and realise how far we have come in tackling gender equality. However, it is equally important to look at how much there is still left to do, and ignorance is most definitely not bliss.

Our aim, being an organisation in a male-dominated industry, is to raise awareness across the business, and externally, on the ongoing unequal business environment of which most women have to face and fight daily.

It has been regularly documented that some men, in powerful positions may we add, believe that the gender war is over, a prime example being Kevin Roberts, the former Saatchi & Saatchi boss. However, there are still notable gender equality issues that need addressing. It was only in 2017 when the BBC’s top salaries were published, leaving Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s first China editor, astonished as she learned the North America editor, John Sopel was paid 50% more than her. So, how far have we really come?

Although the number of women in work is slowly increasing (71.8%), and the gender wage gap is narrowing, there is still a prominent pay gap that requires further attention. The gender pay gap for full- and part-time workers combined in the UK fell to 17.9% in 2018, meaning that women currently earn approximately 80% of men’s median hourly wage. We mentioned the BBC earlier in relation to unfair pay, but who can forget the recent ASDA scandal? The retail giant had over 17,000 members claims brought forward by the GMB trade union, Asda’s union for its workers, when it came to light that shop floor staff, who are mostly women, were being paid substantially less than depot staff, who were mostly men, despite their roles being comparable beyond doubt. More locally, legal firms began filing claims against Birmingham City Council in 2006/07, which finally ended in 2012 with a £757m payout, as over 170 female employees realised that they were not being paid bonuses, unlike their male colleagues. Our advice? Speak about salaries with co-workers. Although this is something often frowned upon in British culture, it is the only way of initially noticing if your workplace is operating equally.

Research consistently suggests that workplaces are more effective with a balance of genders at every level of the hierarchy. Yet in 2018, women accounted for only 23.7% of those employed as Chief Executives and Senior Officials across all industries. Even in female-dominated industries, such as fashion, one would assume that the percentage of females in top leadership positions would be high, however, it seems that this is not the case. Despite 86% of fashion graduates being female, and females dominating the percentage of employees taken on in entry-level positions, it seems that only 14% of major brands are run by female executives. This concurrently agrees with IWD 2020 statement; ‘equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue’. Businesses need to lead by example through progressing their female employees who are deserving of it and paying them adequately. Linking this back to the BBC and Asda, if industry leaders are not paving the way to equality, then it continues to set us back globally.

The gender gap is continuing to widen in higher education (HE) in the UK. In 2016, 59.4% of graduates with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree were women. Whereas in 2018, only 57% of students enrolled in HE were women, representing a 33% decrease. Furthermore, the top subject area in which women remain a minority, despite fluctuating over the years, is Engineering and Technology degrees (21.8%).

Being an engineering company, we took this year’s IWD’s theme, ‘each for equal’ very seriously. The theme is drawn from a notion of ‘collective individualism’. Collectively, we can create a gender-equal world.

Peter Rolton, Chairman, made the following statement:

"At Rolton Group, we are proud to be playing our part to support and encourage women to take up professional careers in the built environment engineering sector. This includes Geotechnical, Mechanical, Electrical and Structural Engineering. In 1985, when I graduated from an Engineering Degree course, Rolton Group had no female engineers. Now in 2020 29% of our professional technical staff are female, and we continually strive to increase this."