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How Gemma Lloyd is Changing the Game for Women in the Workplace

Gemma Lloyd’s transition from facing the challenges of tech’s gender bias to launching WORK180 with Valeria Ignatieva is a remarkable journey of resilience and innovation.

Their shared experiences with workplace inequality, including pay disparities and a lack of support for working mothers, fuelled their drive to create a platform that empowers women and promotes genuine inclusivity in the workforce.

In this conversation, Gemma shares insights into how WORK180 has grown to champion women’s rights in the workplace and the impact it’s made on both employers and employees. 

Gemma, your journey from experiencing the “tech boys clubs” to founding WORK180 is both inspiring and a testament to your commitment to change. What were the pivotal moments that compelled you and Valeria to create a platform focused on empowering women in the workforce?

A major moment for me was the realization of a significant pay gap between myself and a male colleague in the same role. It wasn’t just about the unequal paycheck; it was about the pervasive attitude that women were somehow less deserving. And that if we wanted to progress, we would have to continue to put up with belittling comments from clients, such as “I guess your company just hires pretty young blondes.”

Meanwhile, Valeria was facing her own workplace challenges as a single mum to a son with a disability. Despite an impressive career and being described as “the perfect candidate” on multiple occasions, employers’ inability to provide flexible working options was pushing her out of the working world.

Having previously worked together at a great company, we knew there were organizations out there that would value and nurture women — there just wasn’t an easy way to find them! And so, in 2015, we founded WORK180. 

WORK180 has evolved significantly since its inception. Could you share how the platform has grown and the impact you’ve seen on both employers and women seeking genuinely inclusive workplaces?

Certainly! As the first transparent job board for women, we had to pioneer the concept of companies sharing their benefits and policies upfront. We even lost significant investment opportunities when we refused to budge on our belief that employers should be required to meet a minimum set of standards to wear the WORK180 endorsement or appear on our platform.

But thanks to this steadfast belief, our endorsement has become a globally trusted sign of a company committed to progress. Now, over one million people a year use our career platform to view these employers and access the information they need to make informed career decisions. 

We are continually conducting research and advancing the platform to make it even easier for women to find workplaces that work for them. For example, our most recent tech improvement means that women and marginalized groups can now search, filter, and compare the employers we endorse using the benefits and policies that matter most to them.

We also actively support employers with the implementation of such benefits and policies, providing expert guidance, tools, and a proven process for increasing gender representation in just 12 months. In fact, last year, the overall increase in the number of women across our Endorsed Employers increased by 7%.  For many (including those in traditionally male-dominated industries) this increase was as high as 12%.

The “What Women Want Report” sheds light on critical workplace issues. What were the most surprising findings from this research, and how do you think they will influence future workplace policies?

The comprehensive research for the report revealed candid stories of workplace sexism, sexual harassment, and discrimination beyond gender, such as ageism, racism, and ableism. The impact of these experiences is clear when considering this year’s most in-demand policies; there’s a reason a zero-tolerance policy preventing and addressing sexual harassment was listed as the second most important employee offering (just after flexible working).

Some employers may find the prevalence of such issues in the workplace shocking and assume that the findings don’t apply to their team. However, we urge every employer to question their current processes for ensuring workplace equity.

Remember, marginalised voices often go hidden and unheard, and even the most robust feedback systems can simply serve to further amplify the voices of the majority. Our report is here to raise the often unheard voices of women and marginalised groups, and help employers understand what’s really hindering their efforts to develop diversity at all levels of their business — and what they can do about it.

This is the third year that we have released our actionable What Women Want Report, which has and will continue to help employers build and benefit from a workplace where all women can thrive.

Flexible working remains a top priority according to your research. In your view, how have employers adapted to this demand post-pandemic, and where do you see room for improvement?

Offering employees greater control over when and where they work removes numerous barriers to access for women and marginalized groups, so it’s been disappointing to see the rise in employers retracting flexible working and even mandating a return-to-the-office. However, what I find more concerning from our research are reports of inconsistent, unclear, and somewhat deceptive offerings of flexible working.

On the other hand, many employers remain committed to embracing this in-demand policy — and I’m pleased to say they are reaping the rewards. All of the Endorsed Employers we work with offer flexible working opportunities, and we have seen a significant increase in those offering flexible hours, remote working options, and job-sharing opportunities over the last year. There is no doubt that such commitments to ongoing progress contribute to the increasing levels of gender representation. 

Whatever a company’s plans for flexible working this year, my guidance would be to ensure their policy is clear and consistent. A great employer offering is all for naught if those responsible for hiring, managing, and developing team members are not fully aware of the policy. Similarly, neither employee nor employer will benefit from false promises of genuine support for flexibility. 

The report highlights a significant push for menopause leave and training for men on this topic. How do you believe such policies contribute to creating a more inclusive and understanding work environment?

It’s easy to assume that such policies and training will simply benefit those who will or are experiencing menopause, but the impact is even bigger than that. Providing policies and education helps cultivate a culture of empathy and understanding, and sends a clear message that your company cares about its team members — and their families. Whether it’s partners, parents or friends, many of your employees will know and love someone potentially struggling with the symptoms and will gain personally from the knowledge too.

Menopause is ultimately a health condition, and to ignore it sends a bad message and contributes to a taboo that’s stopping teams from developing gender-diverse teams (particularly in senior positions that require team members to have gained experience.)

Transparency, especially regarding the gender pay gap, is a major concern for workers today. What practical steps do you believe businesses should take to address this issue, and how can individuals advocate for change within their organizations?

With many employers in Australia now legally obligated to disclose their gender pay gap information, shying away from the topic is arguably more challenging than simply tackling the problem. Especially as our What Women Want research also reveals an increase in demand from candidates to see this information up front. (86% of our global survey respondents expressed a desire to know what employers are doing about their gender pay gaps, marking a 5% increase from last year.)

To remain credible and attractive, employers must lead this conversation. The first practical step is to understand the causes of your company’s gender pay gap, which will allow you to discuss it confidently and present a clear and considered action plan. (For teams uncertain where to begin, our experts have crafted a free, step-by-step gender pay gap analysis checklist, available at work180.com/resources).

Advocating for such a transparent approach may seem daunting, but our What Women Want Survey is rich in data to support this conversation. For example, teams may be surprised to learn that 55% of respondents stated they would still apply to an employer with a gender pay gap — if they demonstrated a clear commitment to closing it.

With WORK180 highlighting the top 101 employers based on standout policies, could you share a few examples of innovative practices you’ve encountered and why they’re important for setting new standards in workplace inclusivity? 

One outstanding benefit we’ve seen become more popular is the provision of childcare allowances for new parents returning to work. For example, Fintech company Stake offers $1000 per month in year one for new parents returning to work. 

Over and above parental leave, EY also offers grandparents leave. It’s a special time for many when they become grandparents, so supporting them (as well as new parents) sends a strong message to workers about the importance of their lives outside of work.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.