Managers under scrutiny to check gender policies

Three-quarters of firms have formal gender policies but only one in ten have
a costed business case for working on gender issues, according to a report by
Opportunity Now.

The organisation benchmarked the strategies of just over 200 organisations
from the public and private sectors. On top of formal policies, three-quarters
of respondents also have in place board-level responsibility for gender issues,
and over half offer equal opportunities training.

The study also found that line managers are increasingly coming under
scrutiny to ensure they are dealing with gender issues effectively. Overall, 40
per cent of respondents are developing ways of measuring line managers’ performance.

Opportunity Now campaign chairman Clara Freeman said she expects to see more
employers treating retention of women as a serious business issue. She said
factors holding up cultural change included outdated boardroom attitudes,
questionable definitions of commitment and a failure to convince line and
middle management.

"While some organisations genuinely have support at a senior level for
addressing gender issue, others would certainly benefit from being able to
present to their board or executive committee a financial case for the
retention of female staff."

At the launch of the report there were indications that HR is being squeezed
out of the development of equal opportunities policy.

Gill Dawson, equal opportunities manager at Halifax, said that when her
organisation decided to implement a policy it focused on getting the
involvement of the heads of businesses in the group, rather than the personnel
department. She said this was because the policy was driven through on a
business agenda.

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