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New for employers: updated evidence on what works to reduce the Gender Pay Gap

  • Blog
  • 2nd Sep 2021

We’ve recently wrapped-up a large-scale ‘Gender and Behavioural Insights’ (GABI) research programme, a collaboration with the Government Equalities Office to investigate what works to improve gender equality in the workplace. Our work has yielded some interesting insights. For instance, we found that  unconscious bias training does not change attitudes in the long-term, and can even backfire, but a  simple change to the way jobs are advertised can boost applications from women by 16%.

At the Behavioural Insights Team, we’re focused on driving real-world change and improving outcomes. That’s why we published guidance for employers on what works to reduce the Gender Pay Gap back in 2018 and have now published a major update.

Download the new report

Our initial guidance (which is available on the Government’s Gender Pay Gap viewing portal) was created by synthesising the best available evidence.

We grouped actions into three categories:

  • Effective actions: There is strong evidence that these actions have a positive impact in real world settings. These actions are the most worthwhile to invest in, and they need not be expensive. For example, clearly indicating whether a salary is negotiable or not is a simple way to start closing salary gaps when women and men enter an organisation.
  • Promising actions: These actions require further research to improve the evidence on their effectiveness and how best to implement them. But for employers who have already implemented effective actions, these  might be good next steps to consider – just make sure you evaluate them if you implement them, to see if they are having the intended effect in your organisation.
  • Actions with mixed results: Research has found that these actions sometimes have a positive impact and other times a negative impact, or they simply haven’t been evaluated at all. They are a more risky use of resources, as the evidence currently does not tell us much about how to implement these actions to make sure they achieve positive results. 

Over the course of our GABI programme, we regularly reviewed emerging evidence in the field and generated innovative insights ourselves. Working in collaboration with 12 partners, from large employers to job boards and charities, we conducted 30 projects in the gender equality space over a 3.5 year period.

Today we are delighted to publish updated evidence-based guidance for employers on how to improve gender equality in the workplace, ahead of this year’s Gender Pay Gap reporting deadline

What’s new about this year’s update?

Based on both a thorough sift of the academic literature, and our own results from rigorous trials, we have identified nine new actions:  

  • Offer flexible working by default in job adverts (effective) – see our new study
  • Share local support for parental leave and flexible working (effective) – new BIT study here
  • Use targeted referrals (promising) – read more here
  • Make decisions about applicants in batches (promising)
  • Anonymise CVs (promising)
  • Remove biased language from job adverts (promising)
  • Make it possible to list experience in terms of years not dates on CVs (promising) – read our new study here
  • Request ‘advice’ for actionable ways to improve instead of ‘feedback’ on past  performance (promising) – read our new study here
  • Diversity statements (mixed evidence)

Whilst the original guidance focused on gender-related research, we also sought to include wider research on other characteristics (e.g. race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability) wherever possible – to understand what works to improve equality more broadly, and in recognition of the fact that our experiences are not determined by a single dimension of diversity.

The guidance forms part of a larger toolkit, and alongside the main guide we are publishing five detailed implementation guides on five of the effective actions:

These guides take organisational leaders, and HR/D&I practitioners through step-by-step instructions on how to implement these actions, as well as sharing additional evidence. 

How can you benefit from these insights?

Ideally employers should analyse organisational data to diagnose your particular challenges before targeting areas for improvement – you can look at our guidance for help with this. And if, like many employers, you’re struggling to collect demographic data from employees, have a look at our tips on how to improve disclosure rates.

Once you understand your particular challenges and areas of focus, our refreshed guidance can help  workplaces big and small to eliminate bias from  your workforce processes. Peter Cheese, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has commented:

“The business as well as the social imperative for diversity and inclusion in our workforces has never been clearer. But we can help organisations by sharing the policies and practices that most make a difference. This evidence-based resource in support of improving gender balance does the legwork for employers of searching the evidence and sifting out those initiatives which offer the best chance of spurring change. 

There is something concrete in here for all employers, of any size, wherever they are on their journey towards greater gender equality. Once employers act – starting with clear targets set by accountable leaders – we will improve opportunities for all, as well as drive better business outcomes.”

To explore more of our findings, see our dedicated microsite

Do you want to improve equality in your own organisation, and more widely? Get in touch! Email us at