Blog by Laura Swiszczowski, Researcher, Opportunity Now
Recent research published by the World Economic Forum showed that the UK’s position in the gender equality league tables remains stuck in 18th place, with its score remaining virtually unchanged since the first report in 2006. The main reason for this lack of progress? The ‘glass ceiling’ for women in business and politics. Britain was placed 71st out of 136 countries for helping women find professional and technical positions, and 54th for getting women into Parliament.
The fact that there has been no progress for seven years is deeply worrying. We know that our member organisations are working hard to improve the situation for women at all levels and across a range of sectors, but the question we need to ask ourselves is: Is it enough? And what else is there that we can do to help more women get into male-dominated career paths and to reach senior levels in their careers?
There is good work being done by many companies in the UK; the Government’s Think, Act, Report campaign, which aims to increase transparency on women in the workplace, now has 130 organisations signed up, covering 1.85 million employees. But currently there are no requirements for companies to publish gender workforce information on areas such as recruitment, retention, promotion and pay.
One of the biggest challenges for gender equality in UK business is the gender pay gap. The gender pay gap in median hourly pay is currently 10.2% which has reduced in the last 15 years from 17.4%. However, women are three times more likely to be working part time than men in their main job, and when you consider the average full time pay is £12.56 an hour, whilst for part time it is only £8.00, the impact flexible working has on women’s pay becomes clear. In addition, the pay gap is affected by the lack of women progressing to senior levels within organisations. With only 5.8% of executive directorships in the FTSE 100 made up of women, we see why progress in the gender equality league tables is slow. There is a clear business rationale for making the most of all available talent and ensuring it is being fairly recognised and rewarded.
Next month Opportunity Now and Race for Opportunity will be publishing our 2013 Benchmarking Analysis, which looks at how well companies are performing on gender and racial equality. Last year the analysis of our benchmark survey found that women are better represented at senior levels in organisations that carry out equal pay audits with an average representation of 25.6%, compared to an average of 19.5% in organisations that do not conduct pay audits.
There are some very interesting results coming out of this year’s survey around equal reward and recognition, especially in terms of reward structures and the presence of senior women within organisations, and we look forward to sharing the analysis with you when it is published. If you would like to attend the benchmarking event there are still places available – please visit the benchmarking event page for more information and to book.
It is important to hear from women’s experiences in the workplace, and we have an exciting new campaign on this launching soon – watch this space!