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Pay gaps, the wrong role models, a weak talent pipeline and lack of self-confidence are amongst the biggest challenges holding back female managers, according to Women in Leadership, the Chartered Management Institute’s (CMI) first ever White Paper on gender issues.

The paper builds on the results of the National Management Salary Survey, published annually by CMI and XpertHR, which in 2012 showed a lifetime pay gap of over £420,000 between female and male executives.

The White Paper presents a range of practical recommendations, including:

For employers and line managers

  • Measure and report on the proportion of women in your workforce, including at senior levels. Where there is little progress, act on it.
  • Create supportive networks andencourage mentoring opportunitiesfor female managers.
  • Prepare future leaders with the skills they need to do a good job at the top including training, experience and qualifications.
  • Enable women to be wives, mothers and carers by embracing flexible working at all levels.

For Government

  • Require companies who have transgressed to publish aggregated pay data at all levels within the business.
  • Focus on the talent pipeline, not just the boardroom: ensuregreater transparency from employers about the level of female representation at different management levels.
  • Inspire younger women’s career aspirations by integrating management and leadership development into the education and skills system at every level, as recommended by the Heseltine review.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published new guidance to help employers and employees deal with the expression of religion or belief at work and avoid conflict and costly court cases.

The guidance follows the European Court of Human Rights judgment in four cases about religious rights in the workplace, one of which found that an employee suffered a breach of her right to religious freedom for being told not to wear a cross at work.

However, the fact that this judgment could be overturned on appeal and that it could take time for domestic courts to re-interpret existing domestic law, has the potential to cause confusion for employers on how to deal with employees who wish to express their beliefs at work.

The Commission has therefore produced guidance that employers can use to manage and protect religion and belief rights in the workplace.

It includes good practice advice for employers such as how to tell if a religion or belief is genuine, the kinds of religion and belief requests employers will need to consider and how to deal with them.

Organisations run the risk of hampering their own growth by failing to see through the implementation of diversity and inclusion policies, according to research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

By focusing on introducing policies and overlooking how to embed diversity and inclusion, organisations run the risk of not responding to the diverse customer base of modern business.

Instead, firms need to consistently emphasise to front-line managers the simple fact that more diverse teams are more effective, innovative, and better equipped to deliver superior performance and growth. 

The report finds that diversity and inclusion (D&I) is increasingly fundamental, rather than a fringe issue: 83% of organisations have strategies and policies in place and 57% expect D&I to become more important in the next five years. However, too many organisations are still not looking beyond their legal requirements and too few have a truly embedded approach to D&I that is integral to their talent management strategies.

Birmingham City Council has lost its bid to have the equal pay claims of 174 former employees struck out.

The employees had left the council between 2004 and 2008. They claimed that the council was in breach of the ‘equality clause’ inserted into their contracts of employment by failing to provide certain benefits and other payments which were payable to workers of the opposite sex employed on work rated as equivalent.

The respondents could have brought their claims in the employment tribunal, provided that they did so within the time limit applicable to them of up to six months after leaving their employment. They did not do so, however, and instead issued the claims later in the High Court, for which the time limit was six years from the date their cause of action accrued.

The council asked the High Court to strike out the claims on the ground that they ‘could more conveniently be disposed of separately by an employment tribunal’. The council's application was dismissed by the High Court. Its appeal to the Court of Appeal was also dismissed.

The council then appealed to the Supreme Court, which has now also dismissed the appeal.

The BBC reports that the former employees can now proceed with their compensation claims through the civil court system, and have up to six years to make their claims. The claims could be worth around £2 million for the group as a whole.

A recent survey by Ernst & Young has found that the glass ceiling is dead as a concept for today’s modern career. Two thirds of women polled believe they faced multiple barriers throughout their careers, rather than just a single ceiling on entry to the boardroom.

Based on the results, Ernst & Young has identified four key barriers to career progression for today's working women. These barriers are: age, lack of role models, motherhood, and qualifications and experience.

Liz Bingham, Ernst & Young's managing partner for people, said: "The focus around gender diversity has increasingly been on representation in the boardroom and this is still very important.

"But the notion that there is a single glass-ceiling for women, as a working concept for today's modern career, is dead. Professional working women have told us they face multiple barriers on their rise to the top. As a result, British business is losing its best and brightest female talent from the pipeline before they have even had a chance to smash the glass ceiling. We recognise that in our own business, and in others, and professional women clearly experience it – that's what they have told us."

The survey identified age – perceived as either too young or too old – as being the biggest obstacle that women face during their careers. Around 32% of women questioned said it had impacted on their career progression to date, with an additional 27% saying that they thought it would inhibit their progression in the future.

Most markedly it was women in the early stages of their career that seemed to be most acutely impacted – with half of all respondents between 18 and 23 saying age had been a barrier they'd already encountered in their career.

The European Commission's latest annual report on gender equality has found that improving equality between women and men is essential to the EU's response to the current economic crisis.

"The economic case for getting more women into the workforce and more women into top jobs in the EU is overwhelming," said Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "We can only reach our economic and employment goals by making full use of all our human resources – both in the labour market as a whole and at the top. This is an essential part of our economic recovery plans."

In the labour market, the employment rate for women is 62.1%, compared to 75.1% for men, meaning the EU can only reach the overall Europe 2020 target rate of 75% employment with a strong commitment to gender equality.

Under the Europe 2020 strategy, the Commission has highlighted the need to promote a better work-life balance, in particular through adequate childcare, more access to flexible working arrangements, and by making sure tax and benefit systems do not penalise second earners. These can all help to make sure more women enter and remain in the labour market.

The gender pay gap has narrowed slightly across the EU. On average, women earn 16.4% less than men for every hour worked. The gender pay gap is caused by multiple factors such as labour market segregation and differences in educational choices. Slow progress in narrowing the gender gap in company boardrooms led the Commission to launch a public consultation on possible measures at EU level to address the problem, which risks holding back innovation and growth in Europe.

A recent report from work-life charity Working Families has revealed that many parents are facing impossible choices and discrimination at work.

The report, which was based on calls to the charity's free legal advice line, found that employers are less willing to consider a variety of working patterns, and are imposing changes which undermine parents’ ability to combine work and childcare.

The report also revealed that 8% of calls in 2011 concerned pregnancy and maternity discrimination, including callers dismissed when they told their employer they were pregnant, demoted on their return to work, and unfairly selected for redundancy.

Other callers reported that they could not afford to return to work after childbirth, because of high childcare and travel costs, while parents of disabled children could not find any affordable, appropriate childcare.

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