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Diversity requires modern working practices

By Cerys Furlong

This piece is part of our series, Walking the talk, which explores the diversity of the UK’s charities and foundations, with perspectives from both in and outside the sector. Find the full collection here. 

Chwarae Teg (which means Fair Play in English) has been working to reduce gender inequality in Wales for over 25 years. Our approach includes both building the confidence, skills and experience of women and driving culture change in organisations to ensure they are diverse and inclusive workplaces.

But what do we mean by a ‘modern workplace’? And how can it benefit your organisation? Flexible working is much more than working part time, and it’s definitely not just for women, or parents.

Chwarae Teg’s vision is for a fairer Wales where women achieve and prosper. However, currently women are more likely to be in low paid, low skilled work, and to earn significantly less over their lifetimes than their male peers. The gender gap is very real, and gender stereotyping exists in many sectors or industries that are either heavily male or female dominated. To address these issues and strive for real gender equality and economic empowerment, we work with all sorts of businesses and employers across the public, private and voluntary sectors to help make their workplaces more equal, diverse and inclusive.

How we work: Modern working practices.

Many women, especially those aged 30 and above find they are unable to find full time, permanent work due to childcare or other caring commitments. This is one of the major drivers of the gender pay gap. But, with just a bit more flexibility, caring commitments can be fitted around full time work. You probably know this as ‘flexible working’. Happily, more and more businesses and charities are adopting it, as the benefits not just to individuals, but to organisations, become better known.

We help organisations implement flexible working using an approach called “Achieve” which we adopted in 2016.  Achieve makes organisations stronger and people more effective by giving them increased autonomy and accountability within the employer/ employee relationship. Under the Achieve model, employees agree objectives on a regular basis with their line manager and are then free to deliver these where and how it suits them.

As a result, staff are empowered to manage their own time, are engaged in regular conversations about performance and can see a clear link between their day-to-day work and the organisation’s strategic objectives.

There’s an obvious business case for models like this, and we know that where they are adopted they help more women into the workforce. Rather than set out to do a ‘diversity’ initiative our work puts the business and the social case together.

Another great example of this is Joe’s Ice Cream in Swansea, who worked with us when they were anticipating having to make significant capital investment to grow their premises in order to house an increased number of administrative staff.

With our help they implemented modern working practices such as remote working and job shares, meaning they no longer needed to expand their office space, leading to significant budget savings. We don’t know what happened to gender mix at the organisation as a consequence but the remote working and jobs shares that were created were more suitable for people with caring responsibilities than the conventional jobs they replaced. We do know that the company has reported an increase in productivity due to a reduction in sickness absence and an increase in staff well-being.

How we hire: Unbiased recruitment practices

Recruitment can often be influenced by unconscious biases leading to unbalanced and unequal workforces.  We work with employers to help them recognise and tackle this bias so that they can implement more inclusive recruitment process using a number of different tools from gender lensing materials, changing stereotyped imagery and branding and moving to blind shortlisting.

Again, we show the organisations we work with both the business and the moral case for making a change. For example, working with Chwarae Teg, The Danish Bakery in Cardiff, moved to an online application form rather than CV based recruitment. This is fairer and less likely to be biased but also creates efficiencies for the company as they now have a bank of consistent applications that can be shortlisted for future vacancies.

Another example is Miles Hire, a small machinery hire company based in south Wales. They had never had a single woman apply to work with them and applications overall had been decreasing. We came in to help them get access to a wider the talent pool, and made a number of quite simple changes to their recruitment adverts:

  • Imagery was added that clearly depicted both men and women
  • An overview of what it’s like to work for the company was added including a commitment to learning and development, outlining they are a supportive employer and provide opportunities for progression.
  • Language was modified to avoid jargon and non-essential technical terms.
  • E&D statements and their Exemplar Employer status were added

Following these changes, a number of applications were received from women. The company now employs several women, one of whom is in a managerial position.

While some of these changes may seem small, we believe that only through working with organisations to shift business and workplace culture can we make employment more equal for men and women. Legislative or regulatory change at a strategic level is important, and we campaign to ensure equal rights for all. However, these case studies demonstrate that relatively small changes can also make a big difference to equality and diversity in the workplace.  The work that Chwarae Teg does with employers across Wales is aimed at empowering and enabling companies to make these changes, and together working towards real gender equality.


Cerys Furlong

Cerys Furlong is Chief Executive of Chwarae Teg Wales’s leading economic development agency for women and charity that campaigns for gender equality.

Prior to joining Chwarae Teg, Cerys was Director for Wales at Learning and Work Institute and has over ten years’ experience working in the education and skills sector. Cerys is also a Governor of Fitzalan High School and Board Member of Chapter Arts Centre. In 2018 Cerys was appointed to the Cardiff City Region Economic Development Board, which oversees the proposals submitted to the city region and advising the joint Cabinet. In addition, with her business partners Cerys has set up a number of successful businesses and runs a small group of pubs and restaurants in Cardiff including currently The Lansdowne and The Grange pubs in Cardiff and Milkwood restaurant in Pontcanna. Cerys was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of Cardiff University in 2017 for her services to gender equality. Cerys lives in Cardiff with her husband Tom and two daughters.

Cerys Furlong

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