Grocery has made good strides in closing the gender pay gap in recent years.

Analysis by The Grocer in March found for every £1 made by a man at the UK’s biggest supermarkets, women will earn 93p. That’s compared to 85p for every £1 shortly after gender pay gap reporting first became a legal requirement for UK companies in 2017.

But while much has been made of gender equality efforts by the major retailers, other sectors often face less scrutiny. Especially since the mandatory reporting requirements were paused due to Covid-19.

So it was encouraging to see a survey from Women in Wholesale this week, which found the number of women who had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace has fallen from 57% in 2019 to 36% in 2021.

Slightly less encouraging, though, was the fact a third of women in the WiW survey said they faced a “lack of respect” in the workplace – a situation that has not improved since last year.

It’s a reminder gender equality isn’t all about equal pay and access to jobs. It’s also about the attitudes women experience in the workplace every day – not just from senior management but from colleagues and even customers.

This is a harder problem for companies to fix than pay or equal opportunities. Not least because it’s less tangible – what one woman may perceive as a lack of respect in the workplace might be different from what another would.

It is also a wider societal problem that, as the #metoo movement has demonstrated, extends far beyond the food sector.

But firms – and the industry as a whole – must lead by example. And workforce culture always stems from the top. That’s why a zero-tolerance policy must be adopted as, when incidents crop up, it sends a clear message that showing a lack of respect towards women, or indeed anyone, is not acceptable behaviour.

The sector can also help drive societal and cultural change by actively encouraging women to not only join their business, but represent it to the wider world.

Take the competition launched by London butchery chain Parson’s Nose to find a new female butchery apprentice who will become an ambassador for the business, touring events and schools to motivate and inspire women to enter the world of butchery.

It follows a series of initiatives from industry group Meat Business Women to attract more women to the meat industry, after research found women represent just 36% of the sector’s total workforce and occupy just 5% of CEO positions.

Hopefully, as more women take jobs in sectors where they are currently under-represented, societal perceptions and workforce cultures will gradually shift to ensure everyone gets the respect they deserve.