Actions to close the gender pay gap

Actions that are likely to improve recruitment and progression of women and reduce the gender pay gap.

Published 1 December 2017

From: Government Equalities Office

Actions with mixed results

These actions have been shown to have a positive impact sometimes and at other times a negative impact. This might be due to how they are implemented or other factors that we don’t fully understand yet. Due to the mixed evidence, we cannot yet make a general recommendation that these are good ways to reduce gender inequality.

  1. Unconscious bias training

    Unconscious biases can influence a person’s judgement without them being aware of it. Unconscious bias training in the workplace aims to make people aware of potentially harmful unconscious biases and to reduce the impact of those biases. While some types of unconscious bias training may have some limited positive effects, there is currently no evidence that this training changes behaviour or improves workplace equality.

  2. Diversity training

    Diversity training can help raise awareness but is unlikely to change behaviour. Some research in the US has found that mandatory diversity training either does not change the number of women in management positions, or actually reduces it. This backfiring may be for a number of reasons. It may be because people resent being made to do something and so do not take the training seriously. The training might also bring to mind unhelpful stereotypes which people then act upon, or the training might make people think that the organisation has now solved its diversity problems.

  3. Leadership development training

    Leadership development programmes aim to teach qualities including management skills and self-confidence. While there are some very small-scale studies of the effects of leadership training programmes for women, particularly in medicine and academia, there is currently no high-quality evidence that such programmes help women progress. Some people feel that these programmes imply that the women themselves are the problem.

  4. Use performance self-assessments

    In terms of performance in the workplace, there is some evidence that women underestimate their abilities or are more conservative in their assessment of their abilities than men are. The size of this gender difference can vary depending on the type of performance people are asked to self-assess. We do not have enough evidence to know how differences in self-assessment affect women’s progression at work.

  5. Diverse selection panels

    Having selection panels with a mix of men and women seems to help women's prospects sometimes and harm them at other times. Some studies show that the more women there are on a panel, the more likely women are to be selected for a role, while some studies find the opposite. The effect can also depend on the role being recruited for or the role of women on the committee. More research is needed to understand the conditions under which a diverse selection panel is or isn’t effective for improving gender equality.


  1. Unconscious bias training

    • Girod, S., Fassiotto, M., Grewal, D., Ku, M. C., Sriram, N., Nosek, B. A., & Valantine, H. (2016). Reducing implicit gender leadership bias in academic medicine with an educational intervention. Academic Medicine, 91(8), 1143-1150.
    • Atewologun, D., Cornish, T., & Tresh, F. (2018). Unconscious bias training: An assessment of the evidence for effectiveness. Equality and Human Rights Commission.
  2. Diversity training

    • Bezrukova, K., Spell, C.S., Perry, J., & Jehn, K. (2016). A meta-analytical integration of over 40 years of research on diversity training evaluation. Psychological Bulletin, 142(11), 1227–1274.
    • Dobbin, F., & Kalev, A. (2016). Why diversity programs fail. Harvard Business Review, 94(7/8), 52-60.
  3. Leadership development training

    Not available.

  4. Performance self-assessments

    • Fletcher (1999). The implications of research on gender differences in self-assessment and 360 degree appraisal. Human Resource Management Journal, 9(1), 39-46.
    • Beyer (1990). Gender differences in accuracy of self-evaluations of performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59(5), 960-970.
  5. Diverse selection panels

    • De Paola, M., & Scoppa, V. (2015). Gender discrimination and evaluators’ gender: evidence from Italian academia. Economica, 82(325), 162-188.
    • Bagues, M., Sylos-Labini, M., & Zinovyeva, N. (2017). Does the gender composition of scientific committees matter? American Economic Review, 107(4), 1207-38.
    • Abramo, G., D’Angelo, C. A., & Rosati, F. (2015). Selection committees for academic recruitment: does gender matter? Research Evaluation, 24(4), 392-404.
    • Duguid, M. (2011). Female tokens in high-prestige work groups: Catalysts or inhibitors of group diversification? Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 116(1), 104-115.

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