Posts Tagged ‘women in the workplace’

Time to smash the glass ceiling that still faces women at work

14/11/2012, 03:41:13 PM

by Ann McKechin

Workplace equality is currently a hot topic among UK and EU legislators. In Europe, Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, recently had plans for a 40% female quota on EU listed company boards quashed. Revised proposals released today look to soften down the original draft legislation. In Westminster, my colleagues and I on the business, innovation and skills select committee are now gathering evidence for a new inquiry: women in the workplace. The results so far have been both illuminating and alarming.

On a positive note, the evidence suggests that one year on from Lord Davies’s report Women on Boards, women at the top of British businesses are finally getting a seat at the table. The number of female board members in FTSE 100 companies has increased from 12% in 2010 to 17.3% in 2012, whilst the number with no women on the board dropped to eleven.

But there is still work to be done. The majority of women being appointed to board level positions at public companies are non-executive directors, who lack the power and influence that executive office brings. Despite the number of FTSE 100 companies with more than one woman on the board increasing to fifty since Lord Davies recommended a voluntary code of conduct for chairmen to follow, there remain fifty companies with only a single female board member. Change is a slow process, however, and the news that the corporate gender balance is gradually tilting towards equality can only be a good thing.

“Breaking the glass ceiling” and progressing to the top of the corporate ladder is far removed from the concerns of the vast majority of working women in the UK. Much of the written evidence submitted to the committee relates to the barriers stopping women across the pay levels returning to work after having children, from lack of flexibility in working hours to childcare costs which rank as the most expensive in the developed world. Gingerbread, a charity championing the rights of single parents, noted in their evidence that too much part-time work is concentrated in low-paid, low-skilled jobs.


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