Women make up just over half the population and to allow barriers that hinder their participation or achievement at work, simply makes no economic sense, this is the same message the Women’s Business Council (WBC) is highlighting as they publish their six month on review.
Women in the workplace
There are now more women in work than ever before – and they stand at the heart of this country’s economic growth. We have already taken a series of measures to address the barriers faced by women and girls in the labour market and in business. The workplace was designed by men, for men and it is only through modernising the workplace that some of the things which hold women back when it comes to the world of work, can be addressed. As such, we are making lasting structural changes to ensure our workplaces match the needs of women in modern Britain, including introducing shared parental leave to give families more choice and control, extending the right to request flexible working to all, increasing child tax credits for lower income families, and extending the free entitlement to early education.
We have also acted to encourage and support more women to start their own business, through mentoring, financial help and cutting red tape.
Think, Act, Report
In addition, over 140 leading companies have signed up to Think Act Report, a voluntary initiative to encourage gender equality in the workplace. This means that there are now over 2 million employees covered by this initiative. It’s great to see companies like Marks and Spencer, Barclays Bank and IBM signing up and doing more to improve opportunities for women in the workplace and being transparent about equal pay. These businesses recognise that with women making up nearly half of the UK’s workforce the companies who nurture their
skills and talents will reap the economic benefits. I am urging more employers to sign up.
It’s important to show our future generations that a career in science and engineering isn’t just for men. Women are seriously under-represented in this sector. Not only are women missing out on what can be a highly rewarding career, but UK companies are missing out on a huge pool of talent. Girls outperform boys at school, but are still lagging behind in going on to study STEM subjects at university. Only 17% engineering graduates are female and only 19% in computer sciences.
The Government is supporting a range of activities which aim to help promote STEM education and careers such as the STEMNET Ambassadors Programme and a Diversity Programme.
Once at work, women make up a smaller proportion of senior positions – only 33% are managers, directors and senior officials and this adversely affects the pipeline through to the top – shockingly only 6% FTSE 100 executive directors. We are taking lots of different measures to address this as highlighted above but government can only do so much and partially this is about seeing a culture shift in the workplace and an inherent understanding that enabling women to succeed is simply good business sense.
Last month, at a summit at No 11 Downing Street, I said that top business people and the business world really must step up to the plate by improving opportunities for women within their organisations. There is a clear business case for doing so. We have set out a series of early actions by Government to make a real difference in each of the four priority areas identified by the Council. This summit came on the back of one that I held a few months prior to that, again at Downing street which only serves to emphasise how focussed we are on tackling this issue.
The WBC published a new booklet of inspiring case studies that demonstrate the business benefits of a diverse workforce. Alongside this, are some a href=”https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/simple-steps-to-unlocking-potential”>simple steps that businesses can use to help develop the talent of its staff and improve opportunities for women.
See more images on the WBC six months on.