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Women at work: facing a concrete ceiling?

A recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission ‘Sex and Power’ showed that women’s progress has slowed to a ‘snail’s pace’ and has gone into reverse in many of the areas surveyed.

One year on from the last report only 11% of the directors of FTSE 100 companies are female, we have fewer female MPs, Cabinet Ministers, senior police officers, judges and NHS executives. Women’s representation has increased in just 8 areas – which include Chief Executives of voluntary organisations and Civil Service top management. The report concludes that rather than a ‘glass ceiling’ women face one of reinforced concrete.

The press have some interesting comments about this. Melanie McDonagh, in the Daily Telegraph, considers that very few career paths are barred by institutional sexism. Young, childless women actually get paid more than young men. ‘In truth it’s a maternity gap, not a gender one’. I agree with her.

Rachel Johnson, in the Sunday Times, states that climbing the greasy pole is mainly a male preserve. Janet Street Porter, in the Independent on Sunday, says it’s far more likely that many women give up their careers when they have children not because they lose their drive, but because combining the two is still made difficult by the macho culture of the British workplace.

I believe that it’s important that there is choice. The provision for mothers in particular – in terms of maternity pay and leave, the right to return to part time work and take time off in time of emergencies – has improved dramatically in recent years. Choices for childcare arrangements are also more plentiful. There are also more rights for fathers.

Maybe one of the reasons that the number of women in influential roles is dropping is because there are so many awful male role models out there and women want nothing to do with them!

What do you think?


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