Many readers will have seen some high profile male and female UK politicians wearing t-shirts with the words “this is what a feminist looks like” boldly written across the front. Attention was most likely drawn to the campaign following allegations that the t-shirts were produced unethically in a Mauritian sweat shop by mainly women working in dreadful conditions. Whilst not overlooking that separate important issue it does somewhat overshadow the important topic that Elle magazine, The Fawcett Society and Whistles the retailer are trying to promote about the UK – or conversely maybe it raises the profile.
The timing of the campaign is carefully coordinated to the 4th November the day on which, on average, women in the UK stop being paid for an equivalent role they undertake in contrast to men who would be paid for the full year. In other words, women earn 81 pence in the pound in comparison to men who do the same job. This should change and we support the campaign although no one in the office is wearing the t-shirt!
As an employer, we pay our staff equally if they undertake comparable roles. However, equality and diversity should not stop there. Our industry remains male dominated and in some ways Affinity is typical – we have five founders, four of which are male, only 35% of our staff are female although we aspire to have more senior women as we recognise that diversity leads to better decision making, a more balanced work place and, we believe a healthier working environment and ultimately a more successful business. In an industry that suffers from human resource constraints, we have selected our team based on the best quality staff available. One difficulty is that there is a supply imbalance between the genders but rather than accept this our approach is to try to alter it. This is an intention of all founders regardless of gender. There is no immediate fix but by attending local schools to highlight the opportunities for women in the workplace, by allocating senior women as mentors to new joiners and promoting role models whether employed by Affinity or not we are trying to encourage change.
Additionally we are a family friendly employer supporting the role the family has for our employees. Whatever the gender our approach is to encourage flexibility wherever possible. We have female staff who have male stay at home partners as well as male or female staff who get the call from school first. Being a working parent has complexities of balance that is hard to get right – its complexity should not be added to by paying one member of staff less than another for doing the same job and therefore stifling future supply of talented individuals.
We are doing our small bit and hope this encourages others to follow suit.