Companies assessing gender equality for themselves

A project in Portugal funded by the European Union EQUAL initiative and coordinated by the Portuguese Commission for Equality in Labour and Employment within the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity has developed a self-assessment tool for companies. The tool is designed to make a diagnosis of management policies and practices in relation to gender equality, work–family reconciliation, and the protection of maternity and paternity rights.

About the project

An assessment made in the first phase of a project entitled ‘Social dialogue and equality in companies’ (Diálogo Social e Igualdade nas Empresas) revealed that most companies in Portugal are not acquainted with the principle of gender equality or how to promote it, nor with the competitive advantages that can arise from good practices in this domain. At the same time, the evaluation underlined the lack of mechanisms or tools supporting companies in this regard.

The assessment was based on interviews with several senior managers and formed part of a project funded by the European Union EQUAL Community initiative. The project was coordinated by the Portuguese Commission for Equality in Labour and Employment (Comissão para a Igualdade no Trabalho e no Emprego, CITE) within the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity (Ministério do Trabalho e da Solidariedade Social, MTSS).

In order to rectify the identified flaws, the project defined as its main objective to support companies in the promotion of gender equality, work–family reconciliation, and the protection of maternity and paternity rights. It also aimed to reinforce the mechanisms of encouragement, acknowledgement, monitoring and dissemination of practices promoting equality between men and women in companies, and to consolidate this issue within the corporate social responsibility framework.

Self-assessment tool

One of the products of this project is the Self-assessment guide on gender equality in companies (in Portuguese, 4Mb PDF), which allows companies to make a thorough diagnosis of their policies and practices in relation to gender equality, the reconciliation of work and family life, and the protection of maternity and paternity rights. Based on the results of the self-assessment, companies may identify to which areas they should give more attention and consider developing corrective or intervention actions.

The process is mainly supported by an electronic and/or paper questionnaire with 65 questions, which is completed at senior management level and assesses the company both in terms of legal compliance and the existence of good practices in all of the following areas:

  • organisation’s mission and values;
  • staff recruitment and selection;
  • lifelong learning;
  • payment and career development;
  • social dialogue and worker participation and/or employee representative participation;
  • respect for men’s and women’s dignity at work;
  • information, communication and image;
  • work–family reconciliation;
  • protection with regard to maternity, paternity and family assistance.

The result of the self-assessment is a twofold overall quantitative score: one concerning compliance with the law and the other with regard to good practices in the domain of gender equality. According to these scores, companies may rank in one out of five positions. The first position corresponds to the implementation of gender equality in principles, measures and practices, in addition to compliance with the law in terms of gender equality. At the other end of the scale, position five corresponds to companies that may have some practices to promote gender equality but do not comply with the law in this domain. For each position, the guide presents a number of ‘hints for action’ in order to help companies to improve their results.

The main target group of this tool are companies of all sizes and all sectors of economic activity. It can also be used by managers in general, as well as human resources managers, consultants and auditors, trade union representatives and gender equality experts.

Benefits of self-assessment

Some of the benefits of the self-assessment process highlighted in the guide are to:

  • diagnose the corporate situation with regard to equality between men and women, work-life balance, and the protection of maternity and paternity rights as transversal dimensions of the company’s management areas;
  • reflect on the incorporation of the gender equality concept, based on the way in which gender equality principles, work–life balance, and maternity and paternity rights are included in corporate policies, procedures and practices;
  • identify the company’s strong points and the areas that should be improved, enabling the planning and development of adequate actions.

Project partnerships and additional tools

The project partnership comprises a variety of stakeholders, including trade unions, employer organisations, media and research institutes. The following organisations participated in setting up and carrying out the assessment: CITE, the General Workers’ Union (União Geral de Trabalhadores, UGT), the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses, CGTP), the Centre for Studies for Social Intervention (Centro de Estudos para a Intervenção Social, CESIS), the Confederation of Commerce and Services of Portugal (Confederação do Comércio e Serviços de Portugal, CCP), the Portuguese Association of Corporate Ethics (Associação Portuguesa de Ética Empresarial, APEE), Radio and Television of Portugal (Rádio e Televisão de Portugal, RTP), the Higher Institute of Labour and Corporate Science (Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa, ISCTE) and the Institute for the Support of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and of Innovation (Instituto de Apoio às Pequenas e Médias Empresas e à Inovação, IAPMEI).

In the phase of product dissemination, the partnership also included the Association for Competences Development (Associação para o Desenvolvimento das Competências, ADC), the National Association of Businesswomen (Associação Nacional das Empresárias, ANE) and the Commission for Citizenship and Gender Equality (Comissão para a Cidadania e Igualdade de Género, CIG). The project started in 2006 and is currently drawing to a close.

To complement the self-assessment guide, the project also developed the following products: the ‘Solutionary’ – Solution manual: A tool for the promotion of good gender equality practices in companies; a gender equality training reference for consultants and auditors; and a demonstration video showing successful practices of gender equality in companies.

Further information

More information on gender equality at European level is available on the Eurofound website, including a comparative overview of how gender mainstreaming is incorporated into national working conditions surveys (TN0608TR02).

Heloísa Perista and Jorge Cabrita, CESIS

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