14 October 2019

Gender equality audits should be mandatory, according to MAXIS GBN survey

Two thirds of of global office-based employees think firms should be required to introduce an annual gender equality audit, according to research commissioned by MAXIS Global Benefits Network among employees in ten different countries including the UK, US, Germany, Japan and Australia.

A gender equality audit appraises the institutionalisation of gender equality in organisations, including in their policies, provision of services and budgets. Currently, only 27 percent of the employees surveyed said their firm currently conducts an annual gender equality audit. But there was some variation between countries, with 40 percent of UK-based employees saying their firm conducts one, versus only 13 percent in Japan.

The findings demonstrate a welcome appetite for improvements in gender equality in the workplace. However, the survey also showed that two-thirds of global workers think that if men and women are paid the same, their employer has achieved gender equality.

Three quarters of respondents in Australia said equal pay implies gender equality, the highest proportion in the countries surveyed. At the other end of the spectrum was Japan, where only 46 percent of employees thought the job ended there. In the UK the number was 70 percent.

In fact, gender equality in the workplace is about much more than remuneration, as the United Nations has said. Equality in the workplace means women have equal opportunities for leadership and a working environment that is free from discrimination and sexual harassment.

It also found that one in 25 male workers believes women are being aggressive in the workplace if they ask for a pay rise or a promotion. A quarter of them believe women are being aggressive if they threaten to leave an organisation to try and push through a pay rise.

The survey found that unconscious bias is the greatest barrier to workplace gender equality in their organisation, according to the survey. It found that 28 percent of respondents in Australia, 25 percent in Canada, Japan and Germany and 26 percent in the Netherlands thought unconscious bias is the greatest barrier to workplace gender equality.

One in five global employees thought there are too few senior female role models, making it the second biggest barrier, according to the MAXIS survey. A lack of a formalised plan or strategy to ensure gender equality was cited by 14 percent, while one in ten pointed to active discrimination against women.

Overall the barriers were fairly consistent across different countries, said MAXIS.

Patsy Langridge, global director of marketing and communications at MAXIS GBN, said: “As an employee benefits network we are always looking at the issues and topics that interest our multinational clients and we know that pay parity is part of a wider discussion about the workplace, which includes employee benefits packages and workplace culture. The research shows many workers would welcome the introduction of audits to see how their workplace is evolving. Progressive firms across the world are investing in training and education programmes to help remove barriers to progress.”