International Womens Day- What it Means to Opportunity Now


Kathryn Nawrockyi









Blog by Kathryn Nawrockyi, Director Opportunity Now


Today is International Women’s Day, and this year the theme is ‘Inspiring change’ – celebrating women’s achievements and challenging the status quo. In the past year, there have been some huge strides in workplace gender equality. The number of women on FTSE 100 boards has gone up from 12.5 per cent in 2011 to 20.4 per cent in January 2014, meaning that there need to be another 51 women appointed to meet the goal of 25 per cent female representation on FTSE 100 boards by 2015 set out in the Davies review. Flexible working has also been made easier with the Government’s announcement that shared parental leave will come into effect in April 2015. We’ve also seen the appointment of a female Lord Mayor of London for the second time in 800 years, the first ever female conductor at the Last Night of the Proms and the first woman to lead the US Federal Reserve.

But for all the good news, we know inequality still pervades – anyone who follows Everyday Sexism on Twitter, with its stories of the misogyny and discrimination that many women experience on a daily basis should be well aware of that. After years of steady decline, in December the gender pay gap reversed back up to 10 per cent. Young female graduates entering the workforce are still earning less than their male peers. Men still dominate in certain industries, particularly science, technology and engineering, and many of those female FTSE 100 directors are in non-executive roles – suggesting that talented women aren’t reaching the top executive jobs. And it isn’t just an issue for women; a report by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills found that fathers were twice as likely to have flexible working requests turned down as mothers.

So, the question is this: if we want to inspire change, how do we go about creating it?

Next month we will be publishing our report on the findings of Project 28-40, the UK’s biggest ever survey of women’s workplace experiences, and our recommendations for employers. We know that there are plenty of ambitious and talented women out there, but that there is still a need for a change in workplace culture to support women in their ambitions.  We are hoping that the report will inspire employers to take steps to make opportunities for progression equal for everyone, through unbiased reward and recognition for all staff, fixing the leaky talent pipeline to improve gender balance in leadership roles, and helping all employees thrive through agile working. These are the three campaign aims of Opportunity Now, and whilst we’ve made great progress in achieving these goals we couldn’t have done anywhere near as much without the efforts of our member organisations.

Today we are announcing the shortlisted organisations for the Opportunity Now Excellence in Practice Awards. They offer great examples of what organisations can do to inspire change within their own cultures to benefit not only their female employees, but the organisations themselves at all levels and across a wide range of sectors – and society as a whole. Although they are using a variety of initiatives to create fair and inclusive workplaces, the one thread linking them all is collaboration – whether that’s through leadership development programmes lead by senior managers, working with schools and universities to increase female representation, or volunteering with community or global initiatives that support women from all walks of life. If we are going to achieve these goals, then it’s vital that we continue to work together – because that’s the only way we can create real change.