Let’s work to address inequity in our industry - NABS
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Let’s work to address inequity in our industry

by Karen Charles, senior support advisor

This International Women’s Day is a day to consider the state of inequity in our industry and how it affects the careers and lives of the women working around us.

Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

As we each start from varied circumstances, equity will be unique for each of us. Be it equity in our roles from salary, growth opportunities, training, and development, to flexible hours and more. Being nuanced, how do we recognise inequities in our workplaces and what steps can we begin to take towards equity for all?

“Leaders at all levels influence the environment and culture of an organisation and have a significant role, and therefore have a brilliant opportunity to address inequity.”

We make assumptions about people within seconds of meeting them.  These assumptions may also be influenced by stereotypes, tropes, beliefs, the media and even the people around us.

For example, over the years, friends and colleagues have assumed that they and I are equitable financially as we may have had similar level roles. That makes sense, though what is absent from this equation is that as a woman I am likely to earn less than a man, and as a Black woman likely to earn less than a white woman in the same role, despite having the same or similar qualifications and experience.

Stats from various sources bear this out. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), among full-time UK employees, the gender pay gap in April 2022 was 8.3%. There’s also a large difference in the gender pay gap between employees aged over 40 years and those aged below 40 years.

According to the latest IPA Agency Census, the gender pay gap is far larger in our industry: 17.4% as of September 2022. Meanwhile, the same report revealed that agencies must do much more to close the ethnicity pay gap. The gap of 21.1% in the same month is actually an increase from the 19.5% reported in 2019.

Add to that the extra challenge in progressing one’s career as a Black woman. Only 11.8% of staff in agencies are non-white, according to the IPA.

When I speak to people about this, they’re astonished by the difference. And what a difference it is. This lack of equity has had cumulative effect on all aspects of my life, the choices available to me and the parameters within which I am able to plan my life, for example, disposable income, mine and my organisations’ pension contributions and its value, mortgage, savings and investments. All of these factors influence my life, livelihood, opportunities, and wellbeing.

“Leaders, listen up, because there’s an extraordinary role you can play here. Leaders at all levels influence the environment and culture of an organisation and have a significant role, and therefore have a brilliant opportunity to address inequity. By leaning into your empathy and emotional intelligence to build trusted relationships with your team, you will gain insight into the inequities affecting each individual.  This will enable you to establish what and how you, with your organisation, can address these. There are many ways to build equity, including salary, learning and development, opportunities within or outside the organisation, coaching, mentoring, wellbeing support, and more.”

But Karen, I hear you saying, that all sounds nice, but we don’t have the resources or time to make this happen and/or we hear what you’re saying, but we like things how they are and don’t want to change. Here’s the thing about us humans; when we feel heard and seen, when we feel valued, when we feel safe, when we feel supported, it positively affects our wellbeing and how we show up in the world and the contribution we make. The absence of, or feeling just a few of these things, can negatively impact our wellbeing.

At NABS, and in my own experiences as a coach and having led multi-disciplined teams, we hear more from those whose wellbeing is compromised due to experiencing inequities. Let’s work collectively to turn the situation around. Get to know your team members as the unique individuals they are.

Explore with them how any iniquities they’re experiencing can be addressed. Work towards positive change, giving support to close the gap as needed. The result? An equitable environment in which everyone can thrive.


NABS’ Inclusive Leader training can help to improve equity in your organisation. To find out more please click here.

This was originally published in Creative Brief.

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