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How important is L&D to narrowing the gender gap?

Last year, our Learner Survey Report discussed the effects that the pandemic had on women in the workplace. We’ve returned this year to see how women have fared in the world of learning and development (L&D), and how you can support a narrower gender gap.

The Shecession

Dubbed the ‘Shecession’, the pandemic saw large numbers of women forced out of the workplace due to a lack of work-life balance, and increased pressures, like home-schooling and childcare, widening the gender gap. And this impact was definitely reflected in last year’s data. 43% of women were looking to change roles within 12 months, with the key driver being to find more flexible working arrangements. That’s compared to just 34% of men! Of course, there’s nuance here, and many men suffered for the same reasons as women during the pandemic. But we want to highlight the number of women that did, unfortunately, lose their jobs, and subsequent career progression. Disappointingly, to bolster the issue, 31% of women felt they needed a stronger skill set than men (22%) to get a promotion or pay rise. And with 48% of women saying they needed more learning opportunities, compared to 39% of men, it was clear women weren’t being provided with the same access to learning and development opportunities. The gender gap wasn’t created by the pandemic; women have been fighting workplace inequity for decades. Be it pay, leadership, or progression opportunities, women have long suffered. These extra losses in 2020 felt damning, as though they would take years to recover from. But did they?

A time for change

We are only one year on, but amazingly, women are making a strong return, pushing for progression, and the gender gap already seems to be narrowing! This year’s learner survey saw that of those that cited the barrier to learning as being unable to find time due to home-related priorities, the split between males and females was relatively even (23% and 25% respectively). As the social constraints of COVID-19 ceased and life became relatively ‘normal’ again, a narrower gender gap compared to the previous year was to be expected. But after taking such a hit, we couldn’t be happier to see that fewer women are feeling disadvantaged with workplace learning! And it doesn’t stop there. 69% of women now have access to the learning that they need to progress in their careers, compared to 65% of men. With 75% of women preferring eLearning, does this mean that organisations have taken on the responsibility to listen to their people’s needs to enable development? Even though our learner survey disappointingly discovered that remote working has had a negative effect on performance reviews (basically they’re less frequent than before), there has been a similar impact on both men and women there too.

Still a long way to go

Unfortunately, despite the impressive (and somewhat surprising) improvements we have seen for women in the workplace over the past year, it wasn’t a level playing field pre-2020, and it’s far from one now. Did you know that women are consistently judged as having less leadership potential than their male counterparts, making them 14% less likely to be promoted each year? Just because of their gender. Nothing about skills, capability, dedication, or education is evaluated here. Women are literally judged as having fewer leadership qualities because they are in fact, a woman. Enough is enough and we can do better as a society and within our organisations to destroy these deep-seated biases.

What can your organisation do to close the gap?

L&D support is crucial. By ensuring you’re providing all your employees with equal opportunity and access to L&D, you are creating opportunities for your people to own their career progression and development. Invest in eLearning, especially in bite-sized chunks, it’s a simple, yet effective way of retaining important knowledge. And as our survey discovered last year, women loved this style of learning as it promoted flexibility. Besides, your people are more likely to engage and retain material through eLearning because it requires around 50% less learning time, and is completed at their own pace. So, why not provide more options for your people’s learning so that they can choose when and how to make their development. And we have an LMS that can help you with exactly that. Provide flexibility! If the pandemic taught us anything, we no longer need to be in the office 5 days a week and working hours don’t have to be fixed! Besides, 4 out of 5 workers with inflexible schedules are looking to leave their current job, so you need to meet your people’s needs, before somebody else does. Support and retain your talent by providing flexibility in their working day so they can achieve the career progression they deserve. Besides, it’s 2022. Are we really going to keep saying ‘men have better leadership qualities than women’? No, we didn’t think so either. Everybody has a future with learning. And everyone has the right to choose their own career progression path. By providing equal opportunities and access to learning for all your people, you’re showing your support for their development journey and career progression. And happy people = long-term team members.   Want to find out how to improve your L&D strategy to help engage and retain your people? Download the learner survey today.

Written by Claire Moloney

Claire is an enthusiastic and meticulous content writer whose passion is to support growth and continual learning for everyone.

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