Two men and a woman sit outside at a cafe and work on a laptop.

Promoting Gender Parity in Creative Industries

Gender parity is the equal access to resources and opportunities for people in the same or similar situations. In the professional world, that means the same pay for the same work and equal access to opportunities and the appropriate decision-making processes depending on the position within the company.

It’s not only a serious social issue. Ensuring the same results for the same amount of hard work and a viable career path for anyone who can achieve it also boosts a company’s employment brand and ensures that the best talent is in the right place to make an impact commensurate with their ability no matter who they are.

Studies from organizations like the World Economic Forum and the United Nations indicate that, although there has been some progress on gender inequality and the wage gap, there remains a long way to go before we achieve complete equality. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the impact of gender disparity in creative industries and what can be done to solve the problem.

What is Gender Parity?

Many companies and individuals have a hard time imagining or understanding what exactly gender parity looks like. The goal is to afford everyone equal protection, resources, rights, and opportunities. That includes access to upskilling or reskilling, leadership training, promotions, and management positions.

Gender parity doesn’t mean that women and people outside the gender binary should be arbitrarily placed in higher positions at a given company to satisfy an abstract representation requirement. It also doesn’t mean everyone at the company should be making the same wage.

What companies should aim for is remuneration that matches the responsibilities of each role regardless of who fills it and without consideration of outside factors like having a family. Beginning a family should be accommodated with fair maternity and paternity leave, but the possibility of a pregnancy shouldn’t limit investment in talented creatives.

Some areas where gender parity doesn’t yet exist are outside the control of businesses. For example, political representation is still extremely unbalanced in favor of men. Education is by and large a societal issue, but unlike political representation, it is one that company initiatives can impact.

Gender parity is one tool to reach full gender equality. Many common barriers to gender parity are viewed as non-existent or already resolved by important actors at many businesses.

A group of people stands outside laughing in the sunshine.
Overcoming common barriers to equality requires intentional efforts to do so.

Common Barriers to Professional Gender Equality

While it may be difficult to say that every company faces the same barriers, there are some general subject areas that many problems can be grouped into.

  • Representation in Leadership

All the common barriers would likely be changed if there were more people in leadership positions who had had to struggle with the hurdles of inequality. There are many reasons why there might be a lack of representation on key decision-making teams. Perhaps management has become a boy’s club.

Once an imbalance of roles enters management it can be difficult to solve. These managers are likely to be the same people making hiring decisions and could further entrench the biases and resulting inequality that already exists.

Again, that doesn’t mean that simply placing some token actors is the solution. But addressing some of the other barriers is likely to result in more equal representation in leadership and a long-term resolution of gender inequality in the workplace.

  • Stereotypes

Some of the stereotypes with the most staying power are surprisingly out of step with our modern society. For example, gender roles that define women as homemakers or primarily domestic often lead to them being limited to similar roles in a professional environment or even denied the opportunity to advance because of a misplaced belief that their true calling lies elsewhere.

Like other creatives, women and non-binary people earn their positions with strong portfolios and effective interviews. Given that this is the case, allowing these stereotypes makes little sense. Yet they are still pervasive and have harmful impacts on the entire working environment.

  • Childcare

If you’re really lucky, your employer will provide childcare on-site or have some kind of reimbursement for childcare built into the remuneration package. However, that is far from common in any industry. Women are more frequently responsible for taking care of children, largely due to gender roles.

Lack of affordable childcare options forces couples to decide which one will stay at home to watch the children. All too often, it ends up being the mother who stays home because of gender roles. But the pay gap also plays a role – if men are making more money, they will continue their jobs, and women making less will stay home.

  • Workplace Culture

Building an appealing workplace culture is a great way to boost retention rates and your employment brand. But companies can also miss the mark and create an environment that caters to masculine or stereotypically “male” activities. Many companies do team-building exercises at golf courses or sports events, for example.

That’s not to say that there aren’t women who don’t enjoy these activities. But the companies that provide these services often market to and design their venues for guys. Sending women to these places is likely to put them in an uncomfortable position, especially if they’re outnumbered on the team.

Outside of team-building exercises, perks around the office and general everyday habits could be catering more toward men. In most cases, the solution is not to try and make things match a stereotypical version of femininity, but rather to try and keep things gender neutral so that anyone can enjoy fun activities and feel comfortable around the office.

  • Lack of Flexible Work Options

Remote work has become more popular and commonplace than ever before. In most cases, that makes juggling childcare and professional obligations a bit easier. It’s also simpler to keep digital environments gender-neutral.

Companies that haven’t made the jump to fully or partially remote teams are missing a great opportunity to ease the stress of gender disparity in the workplace. Work-from-home opportunities are one of the most cherished benefits for the majority of workers of any gender.

Regardless of their remote status, people need time off for a variety of reasons from time to time. Maternity and paternity leave are great examples of long-term changes, while school meetings or sick children are common scenarios requiring time off in the short term.

  • Education

Prerequisites like a bachelor’s degree or a certificate from a portfolio school are just one aspect of the gender gap in education. Continuing professional education for upskilling or reskilling is more likely to be offered to and attended by men than anyone else, largely due to barriers already mentioned on this list.

Initiatives to promote and encourage more education are great solutions to gender inequality in the workplace because they can be offered to everyone regardless of gender. Things like tuition reimbursement and shorter professional leadership courses are likely possible for a large number of businesses.

The ability to continue improving professional skills is another great way to make sure talent is happy and increase long-term retention rates. Leaving a job to go back to school is a common occurrence for people of all genders, so making it possible to continue learning without leaving a job greatly increases the likelihood that talent will stick around for the long term.

Gender Disparity in Creative Industries

So far, we’ve touched on some of the ways that gender inequality can manifest in any industry and some of the most common barriers to gender parity in the workplace.

What makes these especially pernicious in creative roles is that design thinking should be leading creatives toward disruptive and innovative thinking. Acknowledging that creatives and stakeholders who are in charge of creative teams runs counter to the goals of cutting edge creativity.

In lots of design work, empathy with the user is a key component of successful projects. One particularly popular gender stereotype is that women are somehow inherently more empathetic, but that hasn’t led to over-representation across the board. Rather, most women in UX design are found on qualitative research teams and other early-stage positions.

Although these positions are vital to effective design work, there’s no reason why women should be restricted to them. It prevents them from taking part in work that is visible in prototypes and in the final design as well as important decision-making processes that only take place later on in the design thinking process.

When it comes to design leadership, women are under-represented in almost every case. This could be related to gender biases, especially if the hiring managers are all men. It could also be related to the fact that design teams are generally smaller than, say, engineering departments or sales teams. It’s more difficult to achieve true gender parity on a team of 3 or 5 than on a team of 15.

Design and other user-based creative roles are frequently closer to achieving gender parity than other jobs in the tech sector, at least as far as representation goes. But they still have work to do when it comes to salary and opportunities for promotion. Even though women make up a significant percentage of designers, they are a very small fraction of leadership roles.

Addressing the Gender Pay Gap

There is no easier illustration of the harmful consequences of gender disparity in creative industries than the gender pay gap. This term describes the difference between the average pay for a man and the average pay for women who perform the same or similar jobs.

Some estimates say the gender pay gap is anywhere between 5 and 10 percent, although it can be significantly higher in individual companies. Many factors contribute to the gender pay gap, not the least of which is the overall company culture. Women are more likely to be intimidated about asking for a raise when they’re one of the very few women in a sea of men.

That’s probably one of the most negative effects of professional gender disparity: the more it takes hold, the faster it replicates itself. When it comes to the pay gap, that is especially true.

Lack of fair remuneration makes it less likely that creatives of any gender will stay in their role. They’ll either make lateral moves to get a fair wage or, in extreme cases, they’ll abandon their career altogether. That doesn’t only apply directly – if they see other people are not being fairly rewarded for their hard work or high skill level, professionals are also likely to jump ship.

So, what is a company to do? Here are a few strategies that can help reduce the disparity between wages across the gender divide.

1. Bias Reduction

From hiring managers to lower-level employees, rectifying biases is vital to improving gender disparity of all kinds. When it comes to wages, the managers in charge of doling out promotions and raises are especially vulnerable to implicit biases that could be impacting how people are paid across the entire organization.

There are many kinds of training sessions and team-building exercises that help reduce bias. Another good tactic is to limit how great an impact individual bias can have on the promotion and hiring process. This can be done by building larger teams of decision-makers that are representative of the larger body of workers.

2. Family Leave & Childcare Policies

Greater flexibility can make up for shortfalls in the salary budget. Increased amounts of remote work opportunities and a generous maternity and paternity leave program can boost employee happiness and retention rates even when you aren’t able to give massive raises. If the gender pay gap can’t be resolved by giving everyone large raises, you can level the playing field by allowing more flexibility for big life changes.

One great way to make this policy work for everyone is to include other less traditional life changes in these long-term leave and childcare policies. Adopted children, gender affirmation surgery, and bereavement leave are just a few policies that will significantly improve your employer brand and make for much happier employees no matter what gender they are.

3. Pay Transparency

The worst situation is to have a fairly slight gender pay gap that people feel is extreme simply because they aren’t sure how much people are making on average. Individuals might not be comfortable sharing the particulars of their salary, but there should be definite guidelines from the organization about how people are remunerated and what people can expect if they improve their skill sets or get promoted.

Including a review and raise schedule is a good way to make sure that employees have the right expectations and won’t be surprised with their salary in the future. Adhering to these guidelines will make everything much more transparent and create ample trust between the company and the employees.

4. Childcare

It may not be the case that every employee has to worry about childcare, but offering it on-site or making it affordable for the employees who do need are still net positives for the entire organization. Workers with children will have to call out less and since they won’t have to spend as much on childcare they likely won’t be as demanding when it’s time to ask for a raise.

As a fringe benefit, childcare is one of the fastest ways to demonstrate that the company cares about its employees’ personal lives. This message will be received across the board, not just for the workers who make use of childcare or childcare reimbursement policies.

5. Salary History

Finally, individual organizations can stop the harmful loop of compounding biases by decoupling salary decisions on salary history. This might be common at certain levels of the hiring process, but if a woman was underpaid at her previous job then basing her pay scale on that previous salary will only compound the problem.

Make sure managers are basing salaries on the skills candidates possess and not what they made at previous jobs. That’s a more enticing possibility for passive candidates elsewhere and it’s a surefire way to limit the negative impact of biases on gender equality.

Five people stand outside and smile for the camera.
Initiatives for gender equality should be in place from entry-level to corporate positions.


Gender equality should be a central goal of any organization that values its employees and wants to pay them fairly for the hard work they do. Unfortunately, we’re still a long way off from complete gender parity in salary, promotional opportunity, and leadership representation. However, there are a few strategies that are effective at addressing disparities across gender lines.

Use some of the strategies and tips in this guide to address gender disparity in your organization and you’ll create a better workplace culture and boost your retention rate overall. Hopefully, if enough companies follow suit, gender inequality will soon be a thing of the past.

Share this post