What’s the latest research on equality in the workplace?

Hannah Burd, Principal Advisor, Behavioural Insights Team.

Hannah BurdPrincipal Advisor, Behavioural Insights Team outlines some recent research undertaken about improving equality in the workplace. Hannah is presenting at the CIPD Behavioural Science at Work Conference which takes place on 1 October 2019 in London. Book your ticket today.




Gender equality in the workplace: what does it take to shift the dial? 

So you’ve published your pay gap, but how do you get ahead on reducing it?

At the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), we’ve partnered with the Government Equalities Office (GEO) to form the Gender and Behavioural Insights (GABI) Programme. Our mission is to run real world trials to reduce the GPG and improve gender equality in organisations. Results will be published so everyone can learn from them.  

We’ve also published two pieces of guidance to help employers focus on the things that are truly going to make a difference for them. Below are some key takeaways.


Examine your data to identify the drivers of your GPG 

It is not uncommon for diversity initiatives to address the wrong problem. For instance, we’ve seen organisations investing in expensive leadership training programmes for women, without establishing whether it really is a lack of leadership skills that’s holding women back.

To understand what your most pressing issues are, take a look at our publication – Eight ways to understand your organisation’s gender pay gap. It will guide you through the following questions:

1.   Do people get “stuck” at certain levels within your organisation?

2.   Is there gender imbalance in your promotions?

3.   Are women more likely to be recruited into lower paid roles?

4.   Do men and women leave at different rates?

5.   Do particular aspects of pay (such as starting salaries and bonuses) differ by gender?

6.   Do men and women receive different performance scores on average?

7.   Are you doing all that you can to support part-time employees to progress?

8.   Are you supporting both men and women in your organisation to take on caring responsibilities?


One question I’d particularly like to draw your attention to is question 7: Are you doing all that you can to support part-time employees to progress?  

Research shows that there is very little progression among part-time employees, and that this explains a huge part of the national GPG because women are much more likely to work part-time than men.  So to tackle the GPG, we need to boost part-time progression, and/or equalise levels of part-time work between men and women. 

Our impression is that despite this being an important part of the puzzle, organisations rarely consider the relationship between their GPG and how their part-time employees are doing in terms of progression and pay. So if many women work part-time in your organisation, take a look at our guide to help you shift the dial. We’ll also be running experiments to address these part-time penalties over the next year.


Choose the right actions for your organisation by listening to the evidence, not the recent hype 

You may have already heard that unconscious bias training doesn’t do much to shift behaviour. But unconscious bias training is just one action among many interventions workplaces use to change behaviour – with varying levels of effectiveness.

So we wrote another guide to ensure you are up to date with what the latest research has to say about common actions employers take to boost equality.  The guidance classifies actions into three categories: Effective actions, Promising Actions, and Actions with mixed results, as in the table below. 

Hannah is presenting in the session titled “Ignites: ‘nudging’ real change in the workplace to achieve tangible transformation” at the CIPD Behavioural Science at Work Conference which takes place on 1 October 2019 in London. Book your ticket today.