A global study published to coincide with International Women’s Day on Tuesday has found that although the UK is ahead in terms of gender pay gap reporting, it is lagging far behind other countries in terms of paid parental leave, flexible working, and anti-sexual harassment policies.

The report by Equileap, a global data analysis firm, examined almost 4,000 companies representing 102 million employees globally on gender equality across 23 countries based on 19 in-depth criteria.

In terms of the gender pay gap, the report found that 75 per cent of UK companies published gender-disaggregation pay data, which was a slight decrease from the previous year when it stood at 78 per cent. By contrast, the figure in Japan was four per cent and Spain was 92 per cent.

Although employees in the UK are entitled to take 18 weeks’ parental leave, they have no statutory entitlement to be paid. As a result, working parents are dependent on the generosity (or otherwise) of their employer. Spain, on the other hand, offers 16 weeks of paid parental leave to both primary and secondary carers.

Five years since the start of the #MeToo movement, 2021 was the first year during which just over half of companies globally (53 per cent) had an anti-sexual harassment policy. In the UK, the figure was reversed with 58 per cent of the companies researched not having one.

These findings are further reflected in a survey just published by the UK government-sponsored Women in Finance Taskforce (WFT) which found that, on average, the organisations they surveyed only offered two weeks paternity leave as opposed to 20 weeks of maternity leave.

Of the 100 companies that responded to the WFT survey, 91 per cent did not monitor for unintended penalties as a result of staff working flexibly, including the potential impact on their career. And yet, the survey found that people working from home had their chances of promotion slashed by half after working for four days a week over a period of 21 months, compared to office-based colleagues.

The WFT survey also found that the proportion of women in senior management in the finance sector increased by only one per cent between 2018 and 2020, to 32 per cent.

At this rate, the report predicts it will take the financial services industry another 30 years to achieve gender parity at senior levels, and it therefore recommends that companies make a commitment to provide:

  • Detailed annual gender representation targets for all parts of the organisation;
  • Gender parity targets embedded into Key Performance Indicators for all senior management; and
  • Real-time dashboards to showcase progress against gender targets accessible to the public.

To read the Equileap report in full, click here.