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Closing the gender pay gap in SMEs: What you need to do

Following countless studies, we have now accepted that closing the gender pay gap is not only ethical, but hugely beneficial to businesses too. However, despite ongoing conversations across the boardroom and in the media – the gender pay gap figure has barely budged, having improved by just 0.1% in a year.

The current gap, which sits at 9.6%, was calculated following the government’s initiative to make it compulsory for employers with 250 or more workers to publish their figures comparing men and women’s average pay. This public approach is meant to encourage large businesses to tackle the problem, but this should not stop SMEs in taking action too.

How can closing the gender pay gap benefit SMEs?

A wider talent pool

As the ‘war for talent’ intensifies across many sectors, excluding half of the population certainly makes no sense. By widening your talent pool, you drastically increase your chance of hiring the valuable skills your business needs to thrive.

Diversity in thought

An inclusive workforce that utilises both genders, means more diversity in thought and action. There’s no doubt that a mix of skills, experiences and capabilities will strengthen a firm’s ability to tackle challenges more creatively, essentially improving its bottom line. According to McKinsey’s ‘Why diversity matters’ report, businesses with a healthy balance of men and women are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors.


A business that has good diversity and inclusivity practices not only looks good on paper, but has a higher chance of attracting more candidates. A recent study by PwC cited that 83% of women seek careers with businesses which demonstrate strong records of diversity and equality.

How businesses can improve their reputation of females at the top

Target female returners

Businesses have an important part to play in helping women back into the workplace and to make sure that opportunities to progress are equal for all. According to a study conducted by a working parents magazine, MMB, only 18% of maternity returners felt happy and confident about work – blaming the way previous returners had been dealt with by their employers. To ensure that this is not the case in your firm, there must be a supportive culture and system in place that will help guide women back into work.  Numerous elite companies, such as Santander and EY, have introduced ‘returnships’ into their recruitment and retention strategy to ensure that they are attracting highly-skilled individuals who may be lacking in confidence following their career break.

Flexible working

Implement practical measures in your workplace to truly show that you support women, like flexible hours or the opportunity to work from home. As females often bear the brunt of care work both with children and aging parents, a flexible schedule may be the difference in what allows someone to work effectively or not at all. By offering this, employees will likely feel valued and know that you have their interests in mind too. This will undoubtedly create a better environment, and foster a positive culture.

Retain existing talent

Targeting new female employees is fantastic, but it is just as important to retain your existing talent. Offering and promoting flexible working or support groups to your current employees will certainly be appreciated. Extending this help to your male workers will also help cultivate more diverse and inclusive workforce more generally. Keeping in touch during maternity or paternity leave is a simple, yet effective way to show that you care and look forward to having them back at work.

How an internal talent acquisition team can help

Closing the gender pay gap in SMEs starts by addressing the recruitment strategy. A dedicated internal talent acquisition team, which is motivated in pushing your employee value proposition, will help spread a positive and welcoming message to female candidates. As people who are ingrained into the business and know the culture inside out, an internal team are best placed to identify strong employees that can be trained into top positions.

For more help in creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, get in touch today.