Skip to content

International Women’s Day 2023: Creating greater equity for deskless workers

On International Women’s Day we take some time out to fully embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) – but really that should be happening 365 days a year. DEI isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. In its purest form DEI is about ensuring that everyone feels included and is set up for success, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, age, and so on. It’s about creating a sense of belonging and genuine connection for each and every person. However, tackling gender equality and diversity is a marathon, not a sprint. This is unfortunately confirmed by recent statistics.


Gender imbalances around the world

According to Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), in 2022:

  • Australia’s gender pay gap was 22.8%, unchanged from 2021
  • Women, on average, earn $26,596 less than men each year
  • Every single industry in Australia has a gender pay gap that favours men, and the gender pay gap increased in 8 industries
  • Just 22.3% of CEOs are women
  • Just 20% of boards have gender balance and some 22.3% of boards are ALL men.

In New Zealand, the gender pay gap (as of August 2022) is 9.2%, according to the Ministry for Women. The gender pay gap has reduced since 1998 (16.3%) but has stalled in the last decade. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE)) Impact Report 2022 by Global Women and Champions for Change showed that only 14% of NZX50 companies have female CEOs.

In the UK, the gender pay gap has fallen by approximately a quarter for all employees (full-time and part-time) over the past decade. As of April 2022, the gap for all employees is 14.9%, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Different UK research shows that on the FTSE 250 (where 97% of CEOs are men), there are more CEOs named John than female CEOs. In addition, three in four members of FTSE 350 executive committees are men and 25 companies have no women on their executive committee.

Clearly there’s still a lot of work to be done – that’s why International Women’s Day remains so important.

Embracing equity, not just equality

This year’s theme is ‘embracing equity’. When we’re talking about DEI, we often use the terms ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ interchangeably, but they are different.

Equality means that each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. That’s a start but it’s actually not enough. The focus really needs to be on equity.

Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances and comes from a different starting point, so the resources and opportunities required to reach an equal outcome will vary.

So, equality is the goal, and equity is the means to get there. It’s an important distinction to make as every employer takes stock of where it sits on its DEI journey.

Humanforce’s mission is to make work easier and life better for shift-based, or ‘deskless’ workforces. Deskless workers make up 80% of the world’s working population across industries like aged care, healthcare, child care, retail and hospitality, yet are often overlooked and under-served compared with their white-collar peers.

It’s also no coincidence that many of these sectors employ vast numbers of female workers.

Deskless workers face unique challenges which makes bringing equity to their work – and life – difficult. Often, they are working odd hours and many of them may feel disconnected from everyone else in their team. Building sustainable careers and accessing learning & development can be difficult – and especially so for marginalised groups. In addition, HR is often physically distanced from the frontline and may struggle to deliver the support and services required.

Humanforce is looking to level up the playing field and bring greater equity to these individuals by giving them access to the tools, benefits, flexibility and learning opportunities they need to excel in their jobs. It’s a small but important link back to this year’s theme of equity for everyone.

3 tips to improve DEI outcomes for deskless workers

What can employers of deskless workers do to create a fairer, more equitable playing field?

  1. Lean into your people data

It’s no surprise that metrics and analytics can be used to bolster DEI efforts. Fortunately, workforce management (WFM), payroll and HR technology solutions today can be a rich source of data. This makes it easier to provide insights that go beyond mandatory reporting. For example, overlaying WFM or HR data with payroll data creates a mix of financial insights (salaries, benefits, etc.) with ‘human’ information (teams, demographics, etc.).

Gender split benchmarking to monitor might include:

  • Take-up of parental leave
  • Teams that are male or female dominant
  • Job applicant profiles – is there a gender imbalance?
  • Salaries, pay rises and bonuses
  • Employees ready for promotion
  • Team performance
  • Where top talent sits – is there a shortage of female talent in senior roles?
  • Career development, promotion and demotion
  • Resignation triggers – are there warning signs about bullying, harassment or bias that need to be addressed?

These insights can identify where inequalities or imbalances exist, so that strategic, data-driven decisions can be made. This is all essential if senior leaders and managers have DEI-focused key performance indicators (KPIs) to work towards. If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it!

  1. Consider how flexibility can work for your deskless employees

Flexible work isn’t just about the location at which work is undertaken. It’s also about providing more autonomy and choice about the hours worked – and that’s something that can be offered to deskless workers. With more women than men balancing carer and work responsibilities, flexibility is critical to achieving positive DEI outcomes.

Flexible work arrangements in all workplaces need to ensure that the needs of employees are balanced with the needs of the organisation. Leaders need to balance staffing requirements to ensure operations run as needed, without the risk and expense of over- or under-staffing, while also ensuring employees get a blend of consistency and flexibility. That flexibility may take any of the following forms:

  • Flex-work time: Work schedules are staggered to create compressed working weeks or flexible working hours
  • Flex-time off: A manager may choose to extend leave days, extend time-off, or reduce daily work hours
  • Flex-work locations: Depending on organisational needs and size, deskless workers have the liberty of choosing where they’re comfortable working – e.g. a retail store closer to home
  • The ability for employees to bid on preferred shifts and swap shifts with colleagues

All of these options are assisted by, and in some cases are only possible with the assistance of, technology. Humanforce, for example, has a Shift Bidding feature, which allows eligible employees to bid for open shifts. After reviewing the location, department and times of the available shift, employees are able to bid for it directly.

Encourage your managers to discover the desired work patterns of their team members and what’s happening outside of their working lives (for example, if they have carer responsibilities). Understanding that employees have different needs that may require flexibility is an important first step in building a truly diverse workforce.

  1. Review recruitment, promotion and pay processes

It’s possible your recruitment and internal promotion processes are not helping your DEI efforts – and may in fact be hindering them. Here are some tips for fairer, unbiased hiring. Most of these can apply to internal talent moves as well.

  • Review recruitment channels: If your existing channels used to attract candidates are not delivering people with a diverse background, undertake a review of those channels. Are there new means of attracting under-represented demographic groups into your organisation? The scope of these channels will encompass recruitment agencies, social media, your own website, industry bodies, etc.
  • Create a diverse review process: Involve a range of diverse stakeholders in the initial screening process. It follows that the end result will be more informed and balanced selection outcomes.
  • Consider blind recruitment: Perhaps the ultimate way to mitigate bias in decision-making is to remove identifying features – such as the applicant’s age, gender, ethnicity or name – from an application prior to review. This brings the focus solely back to skills and aptitudes alone. Job ads and content on hiring web pages should also be reviewed to remove gender-coded words.
  • Use a structured interview process: A structured approach will use the exact same list of questions in each interview, in the same order. This allows each candidate to demonstrate their skills and aptitudes equally and puts everyone on an even playing field. An unstructured interview, on the other hand, with different questions asked and an inconsistent candidate experience, makes comparisons between candidates trickier.

When it comes to improving workplace gender equality, more leaders need to understand their gender pay gap, measure it and then set targets to take appropriate action to reduce it. This might include:

  • Conducting an audit to understand the size of the gender pay gap
  • Reporting the findings to management and employees
  • Setting KPIs for leadership to reduce the gender pay gap
  • Taking action to increase the number of women in leadership positions
  • Encouraging men to access flexible work arrangements and leave entitlements.

The time for positive action is now

The above is far from a comprehensive list. From forming women’s support groups to offering coaching around unconscious bias, there are so many initiatives that can have a genuine impact – not just for workers today but for future generations as well. When we get DEI right, everybody wins.

How Humanforce can help

Humanforce is a leading provider of shift-based workforce management solutions that simplify onboarding, scheduling, time and attendance, pay, employee engagement, and communication. Customers in more than 23 countries use Humanforce to optimise costs, realise compliance confidence, empower their team, and drive growth. Humanforce was founded in Sydney in 2002, and today has offices across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK.

For more information on how Humanforce can help your organisation to offer early access to earned wages, or to discover how our software can automate and simplify your workforce management processes, contact us or schedule a demo.