Shaa Wasmund: "Small businesses! How do we bridge the gender divide?"

Did anyone else read reports this morning regarding the gender pay divide?

On the one hand, the headlines scream: "Gender pay gap to last another 98 years!", claiming that the average female manager is still earning £10,000 less than her male counterpart. Yet, on the very same day, the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) releases new figures that show junior female managers now earn more than males. According to this survey, junior women managers now earn £21,969 on average; £602 more than men at the same level. To muddy the waters even further, the CMI says that the pay gap has widened for women managers as a whole, rising to £10,546 from £10,000 last year.

Confused? Me too.

Let's get some perspective on this issue. If you're a small business owner, the one thing you care about above everything else is the quality of your staff. Can they deliver? Do they hit targets? Are they a cost or a profit centre?

Do we really care about what gender they are? I don't believe so, but I do believe it is naïve to think there aren't differences.

When families have children, it is typically the women, not the men who take time out of their careers to stay at home. This has an impact on any small business and there is no denying it. I went back to work two months after Jett was born and whilst I love what I do, I recognise this won't be a preference for many women and nor should it have to be. In hindsight, I wish I had been able to take more time off and I know many women who run their own businesses feel the same way.

If you're a small business, losing key members of your team can have critical consequences. There's the financial cost of providing maternity/paternity pay and the cost of finding a replacement.

So how do we overcome these challenges? I don't believe it's by putting quotas in, although I fully understand the reasoning behind this suggestion (and to an extent, they do work). People need to be hired on skills and talent. People shouldn't be hired because there is a quota to fill, but nor should they not be hired because of fear of the employee taking time out to have children.

The two things that will make the biggest difference in my opinion are a) an overhaul of the current childcare system and b) truly embracing flexible and remote working.

It's hard enough being a working mum, but a working mum running her own business has it even harder. The misconception that we have more control isn't true for most. Yes, we might be able to ensure we're at Sports Days and parents evenings, but work always follows us home. People rarely see the early mornings and late nights or the constant demands.

There's no magic elixir, but the solution to pay equality can only be found in tandem with a revolution in childcare and the re-structuring of our working lives.

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