How classroom training is contributing to the gender pay gap
The gender pay gap hit the headlines in 2018 when a change in legislation forced all companies with over 250 employees to publish their statistics. This revealed that over the course of their careers women earn less than their Male counterparts and are less likely to progress into senior positions. There are a range of socio-economic factors that affect this and we may touch on a few during this discussion of gender and training. This article is not intended to explore the details of the gender pay gap but if you are interested in the topic there are a wide range of resources available online. Since the media storm around this issue there has been a rise in the number of initiatives aimed at helping our female co-workers achieve their potential. Most of these involve encouraging women to take part in more training or developing female only training programmes. Whilst the efficacy of these initiatives waits to be seen, I cannot help but wonder if we've missed the point. We might be offering all these training programmes to help women compete with their male counterparts - but that doesn't make them accessible and therefore won't solve the problem. One of the major factors affecting pay is that women are still overwhelmingly responsible for the family and that impacts their work life.
Additionally, the office for national statistics cited in 2019 that there were around million single parent families in the UK, with around 90% of those headed by the mother. Furthermore, Carer's UK cite 2 million people in the UK take on carer responsibilities for a family member, and 58% of those carers are women. The 2020 study by emerald works revealed that 49% of the learning interventions they reviewed were purely classroom solutions. Put yourself in the position of the single mother who has great potential to progress to a middle management role. She talks to her manager and is offered an award winning training programme. It is one day a month in the classroom 9-5 for 6months. That sounds manageable, right? But who will get her son up and ready for school while she's driving to the venue? Who will drop him off at school? And who is going to meet him at the school gates? Maybe she knows another mum who can help her, but maybe she doesn't. It would be easier for her to decline the course and continue as she is. This situation becomes even more difficult if courses are residential or far from home or if your protege usually pops in to check on her elderly parents on her way to work. So despite your best efforts as an employer you will still struggle to help your top performing women reach their potential. Add into the mix the fact that classroom training is often a daunting event for less confident people. Delegates might work for the same company but they don't know each other, many of them may have never met before.
Mental health website nopanic.org.uk report that in 2013 there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK and 2/3rds of those cases were women. Therefore, in addition to those women with family responsibilities and carer responsibilities you now also need to consider those who might find the training extraordinarily difficult due to anxiety and other mental health conditions. Quickly the number of people in the venn diagram cross section of women who want the training in order to progress their careers and those who can attend becomes very limited.
To combat this we need to look closely at our professional development interventions and assess whether we can do something differently. The first question to ask yourself is this: How much of your classroom training needs to be face to face? Analyse your learning objectives and assess what delivery method suits them best. Anything short of Blooms "demonstrating" taxonomy might be better suited to a different method. Could you create a blended solution involving online materials, on the job projects and webinar sessions? This could allow you to reduce or eliminate certain face to face sessions whilst retaining the quality of the training, thus removing some of the barriers to access we explored earlier. And the second question to ask yourself is: "How can we make our classroom training more accessible?" Classroom workshops are often designed to run the full length of the working day, a standard 9am-5pm, despite them often requiring more travel to get to the venue. Consider whether you could start an hour later and finish earlier so your delegates will get home at their normal time. You might even be able to run half day sessions to accommodate for those that need to do the school run. You won't know which solutions will make professional development more accessible for your female employees until you open up the conversation with them. Therefore, it is absolutely critical that you pilot, evaluate and perfect your professional development approaches to ensure they meet the needs of your teams.