As the business sector continue to emerge from the disruption of the last two years, what lasting impact are we experiencing for the fight on gender parity and equity in the workplace? And what can organisations do to ensure that the focus is not lost and the work on equality for women is not regressing.
Who are we?
My journey began with the Charter as a CIC in April 2020 with founding director Jane Ginnever, as the world went into lockdown and working from home became the norm. Together with our small team we have slowly built up the charter community of dedicated businesses in the Bristol and surrounding areas who despite a global pandemic wanted to ensure the focus on a gender balanced workforce would not be lost.
I am passionate about the aims of The Bristol Women in Business Charter which is to recognise and support businesses in Bristol and the surrounding areas that are making progress towards gender equality. Our work and the work of the Charter signatories brings benefits for women, the businesses they work in and the communities they live in.
We have a total of 38 employers, with over 35,000 full time equivalent employees in the Bristol area, who are currently signed up to the Charter community. Their workforces range from over 7000 employees to just 5, all are welcome and demonstrates a real commitment to making progress on gender equality in Bristol a reality.
So how do we measure progress?
All the businesses that we have signed up to the Charter select one or more of our seven goals, for which they set their own business targets for the coming year. At the end of that year the signatory provides feedback on the progress they have made on those chosen goals, which provides a great opportunity for sharing best practice and making change. Any progress is welcome.
What has been some of the challenges for our businesses?
We have seen organisations reporting that although they have great passion for D&I, it has been difficult to during the pandemic period to find the time and resource capacity to focus on D&I and on specific initiatives. As a result of this we have experienced some delays with reporting on progress, but I am pleased to see that a number of organisations have started to address the lack of resources and actively recruit for new team members with a specific remit for D&I.
For the businesses we work with, they have experienced organisational restructure and downsizing, which have impacted on their future plans and ambitions. These restrictions in their growth plans have significantly prevented opportunities for progression within organisations and have had a direct impact on women, the gender pay gap and a pause to some initiatives such as mentoring.
For many businesses, the present is all about surviving the crisis and although that is understandable, but we need to factor in the longer-term impact on pay and progression for women who work in those businesses.
The future of the charter
The business case and benefits associated with a diverse workforce are well documented and available for all to see, so why is it still so hard for that to be translated into tangible action within some organisations?
For me the long-term ambition for the charter would be for its existence not to be needed, that an equitable playing field would be available for all, but we are not there yet. So, while we wait for that day the Charter is an effective long-term lever to support the move to gender equality. We aim to continue recognising, supporting and accelerating the progress businesses are making.
We encourage employers of all sizes in Bristol and the surrounding area to sign the Charter and make progress on gender equality. By working together on this important issue, we will achieve our ambition to make Bristol the first gender equal city in the UK.
I am proud of the continual focus and progress that has been by our signatories, for more detailed information please read our 2021-2022 Annual impact report at www.bristolwomeninbusinesscharter.org
My hope is that everyone in Bristol has an equal opportunity to benefit and enjoy the fruits of this prosperous vibrant city. It will be normal to see an all-inclusive high street within the city centre and diverse role models and those in senior prominent positions of power will be easily visible and reflect the make-up of a changing Bristol.
At the heart of everything I do is about giving everyone a chance to be the best they can be and to bring balance and equality to those groups who are disadvantaged in our society.
Join us to hear how the companies that are signatories of the Bristol Women in Business Charter are positively impacting gender equality at the second annual impact report on Tuesday 29 March 2022 from 9.00 am. For more information or to register your interest please click here.
Bristol Women in Business Charter