Family policies | O2's promise to build equality for women

O2's promise to build equality for women

As last week marked International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations for the annual event will have come to a close, but for one employer, plans to support women even further are set to continue.

Telecommunications firm O2 informed HR Grapevine that its ‘commitment’ to build equality for women is part of the organisation’s DNA and is something that it will build on in a post-COVID world.

Speaking exclusively to HR Grapevine, Catherine Leaver, O2’s HR Director, said: “At O2 we have a strong heritage in this space, for many years we’ve strived to create equity for women and we are proud to have a culture of trust, flexible working and industry-leading family policies.

“This is something we will remain committed to as we look towards what the post-COVID world of work looks like.”

Leaver’s comments come as O2 released new data that found two in five women are worried about post-pandemic burnout. The findings from YouGov discovered that female employees are wary of burnout, with 41% citing it as a professional concern over the next three to five years.

Time to step up

With these worrying figures ringing true, O2 is calling on workplaces to step up their support. This is due to the increasing number of pressures women have faced and continue to face amid the pandemic, including additional household and caring responsibilities, as a quarter of those surveyed shared that women are taking on more than men in their households. 

To assist with this, Leaver added that employers can roll out practical policy initiatives such as true flexible working.

“Practical policy initiatives like truly flexible working models can make a tangible difference to women’s careers and HR leaders have a real opportunity to take action now that makes a difference,” she explained.

Despite this, O2’s research found that in some cases, employers are steeping up their support. In fact, 64% of women stated that they felt well-supported when it comes to flexible working, with under half sharing that they felt provided-for when it comes to mental health and wellbeing provision.

“This is encouraging to see, as employers acknowledge the external pressures of the pandemic and find ways to better support their people,” Leaver continued.

Inequality in the workplace

When it comes to broader workplace issues, O2 discovered that 19% of women were concerned about the gender pay gap widening, compared to three per cent of men. This is a concern that has mounted throughout the pandemic, particularly as The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently announced that the gender pay gap reporting enforcement will be delayed until Monday October 4, 2021 in light of the pandemic.

Leaver noted that “the last 12 months have undoubtedly created challenges” for women in the workplace, however she enthused that this has “also opened up important discussions about gender equality in the workplace, and I am optimistic about the post-Covid environment”.

O2’s HR Director shared that while she is optimistic, it is clear that there is much work to do to achieve gender equality, adding that employers need to “remain on the right track”.

“Gender equality across society is a work in progress, so we need to remain on the right track to a fairer workplace for all and continue to empower colleagues with the support and mentorship they need,” she concluded.

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