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In the 18 months since Lord Davies published his review into women on boards there has been encouraging progress, according to a report by Cranfield School of Management. 

The number of women recruited to the boardrooms of the UK’s largest companies has increased and there has been a notable commitment by business to remove the obstacles preventing women making it to the boardroom.

The report shows that women now account for 17.4% of FTSE 100 and 12.0% of FTSE 250 board positions. Ninety-two FTSE 100 companies and 170 FTSE 250 companies now have at least one woman on their board.

In the six months since the last progress report, the percentage of new appointments going to women in both the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies has risen, with 44.1% for FTSE 100 and 36.4% for FTSE 250.

Drop in gender pay gap

Posted by on in Sex Discrimination

Recent figures released from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) have shown a drop of 9.6% in the UK gender pay gap in April 2012.

Other data in ASHE show that median gross weekly earnings for full-timers, at £506, were up by 1.5% on the 2011 figure of £498. Public sector workers saw a rise of 1.6% (from £556 in 2011 to £565 this year) while in the private sector the increase was 1.5% (£472 a week in 2011, £479 in 2012).

There was a narrowing in the gap between the highest and lowest paid employees: between 2011 and 2012, the hourly earnings excluding overtime of full-timers at the top decile point fell by 0.2%, whereas those at the bottom decile point saw an increase of 2.3%.

The region where employees had the highest median gross weekly earnings was London, at £653, and the region with the lowest earnings was Wales at £453.

The district with the highest-paying jobs was the City of London (a median of £917 a week full-time) and the district with the lowest-paid jobs was Torridge (£348 a week full-time).

Shared parental leave is a step in the right direction, but pay inequality remains a major obstacle to women achieving equality in the workforce, according to the Law Society.

Responding to the government's announcement that parents will be allowed to share up to a year's leave after the birth of a child, the Law Society said the move is a useful step forward and will help many couples to share responsibility in the early stages of a child's development, but without a change to working culture, the introduction of shared parental leave will not achieve the benefit the government hopes for.

The Law Society points to pay inequality as one of the most significant obstacles to women achieving equality in the workforce.

'The reality is that for many couples, a disparity in pay between the father and mother will make it difficult for couples to share parental leave', explains Law Society president Lucy Scott-Moncrieff.

'Families will simply not be able to afford to live off the mother's salary if it is significantly lower than the father's.'

New figures from the Chartered Management Institute have revealed that the average female executive suffers a lifetime earnings gap of £423,390 when compared to a male worker with an identical career path.

With the current gap between male and female average pay at management level standing at £10,060 a year, a woman and a man entering executive roles aged 25 and working their way up the career ladder until retiring aged 60 would take home pre-tax totals of £1,092,940 and £1,516,330 respectively, based on today’s levels.

This year’s survey also reveals that the gender pay gap extends to annual rewards. At the 91 participating employers providing data on the payment of bonuses, women receive less than half what men are awarded in monetary terms – the average bonus for a male executive was £7,496, compared to £3,726 for a female executive.

News on the nature of the ‘management pipeline’ is also mixed. The figures show that the percentage of women in the executive workforce now stands at 57%. However, while at junior level the majority (69%) of executive workers are now female, a much smaller percentage have made it into top roles – just 40% of department heads are female and only one in four chief executives (24%).

Women's entrepreneurial potential is underexploited and the EU needs more women entrepreneurs to create growth and new jobs.

This was the main message of the European SME Week Summit in Brussels, which focused on encouraging women to consider setting up and running their own business, usually a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME).

The fact that women only account for 34.4% of the self-employed in Europe suggests that they need more encouragement to become entrepreneurs.

While European women are at least as well educated as men, only a few decide to set up a company in the fifteen years following their graduation. Lack of take-up can partly be explained by difficulties they encounter in reconciling private and professional activities.

In addition, existing business set-up support systems are not always tailored to women’s specific needs. Concerns faced by potential women entrepreneurs include greater difficulty accessing financing, professional networks and training and a possible lack of confidence due to the absence of appropriate role models.

Women also tend to be cautious and take more calculated risks, and to focus on creating companies in familiar areas and for which they can benefit from family support. They can fail to take full advantage of networking opportunities and often grow their businesses slowly and only if their family situation allows them to work long hours with a good probability of success. Women therefore require tailor-made support measures when setting up their businesses.

More women on Europe's boards

Posted by on in Sex Discrimination

New research has found that greater numbers of women are joining the boards of Europe’s largest companies than ever before, and women now account for a third of all new board appointments in 2012.

The analysis, by Egon Zehnder International, the global executive search firm, has revealed an accelerating trend in the participation of women. The share of all board seats held by women has risen by 28% in the past two years to 15.6% (from 12.2% in 2010). This is equivalent to almost half of the total progress from the baseline set in Egon Zehnder’s first analysis in 2004, when only 8.0% of board seats were held by women.

The rapid increase in numbers of European companies with at least one woman on the board is equally impressive, rising to 86% by 2012: a 9% increase since 2010 (79%); and a 41% increase since 2004 when only 61% of all boards included a woman. If this trend continues at the current rate, women will be represented on the boards of all of Europe’s largest companies within the next two to four years and account for 25% of all board roles within the next five years.

However, there is concern that women are particularly under-represented in executive roles, which are often a stepping stone to non-executive board positions. Only one in twenty executive board positions (as opposed to one in six of all board positions) are today held by a woman – and there has been no progress since 2010.

Equally concerning is that despite women’s increasing representation on boards as a whole, the top board leadership roles remain out of reach. Just seven of 415 Chair roles across the companies surveyed were held by a woman, again with no progress since 2010. A key reason for the scarcity of women Chairs is that few women have sufficiently long and broad board experience. The analysis shows that women board members are on average almost five years younger than their male counterparts.

New research from BT and the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei), showed that despite fathers having a greater role in raising their children, many employers fall short of offering them the support they need.

The findings reveal that while one in two fathers (49%) say they do the majority or an equal share of the childcare, two thirds (67%) don’t think their employers have sufficient family friendly policies.

While more than half of dads (52%) say they do manage to prioritise their family life more than a third (35%) now work more than ever, which means they often aren’t able to be as involved in family life as they would like to be. The study also revealed that nearly nine out of ten fathers (87%) want their employer to do more to help them with their parenting responsibilities:

  • 49% want to be able to work flexibly,
  • 21% want to be able to take paternity leave,
  • 25% want their employer to be more understanding of the demands of fatherhood, and
  • 38% would like support with child care

Denise Keating, CEO of enei, said: “With traditional family roles having changed significantly in recent decades, a healthy workplace culture treats men and women equally. True gender equality will only happen when it is not only socially and culturally acceptable, but actually expected that fathers will play an equal part in the care and upbringing of their children.  If employers do not move with the times and proactively enable this, there is a risk of disengagement, loss of performance, or even worse, a perception of discrimination against the male workforce.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published a report revealing that the appointment of women to FTSE 350-listed non-executive director roles is being held back by selection processes which ultimately favour candidates with similar characteristics to existing male-dominated board members.

The report reveals a recognition by many chairmen and executive search firms (ESFs) that gender diversity should be increased at board level. Search firms have introduced a voluntary code of conduct and had some success at getting more women on long lists. But when it comes to shortlisting and appointing, the candidates who are selected tend to be those who are perceived as “fitting in" with the values, norms and behaviours of existing board members, who are largely men.

Interviews with senior consultants at ten leading ESFs in London, all signatories to the voluntary search code, reveal that search firms are beginning to challenge chairmen and nomination committees when defining briefs. In particular, this includes giving more importance to underlying competencies than “fit” with existing board members.

The research shows how selection of candidates based on “fit” and previous board experience rather than competencies is self-perpetuating as it works against women who have had fewer opportunities to gain previous board level experience. It also limits the ability of chairmen to broaden the range of skills and experience of their boards.

As well as identifying examples of good practice at ESFs, the report concludes that a more transparent, professional and rigorous approach to the selection process would allow chairmen and search agencies to appoint more female candidate and encourage more women to consider applying for roles as non-execs.

An independent Task Force has been set up to help retain top talent within the communications industry and narrow the ever increasing gender diversity gap among senior women returning from maternity leave.

This is in direct response to a national survey conducted by Hanson Search and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), which revealed a record 13.4% of senior employees think employers are out of touch with working mums. These employees plan to quit the industry in the next two years if employers continue to deny flexible provisions for those wishing to return from maternity leave, and maintain negative attitudes.

The survey, which interviewed 550 women and men working within communications, revealed:

  • 9.4% of employers felt they had serious reservations about hiring women aged between 30-40 years old fearing they would, at some point, fall pregnant,
  • 62% of employees feel that they will be discriminated against if they were to become pregnant, and
  • 49.3% of respondents have observed issues or problems among colleagues directly related to their return from maternity leave, such as difficulty with flexible working hours (64.6%), reduction in perceived status (59.9%) and negotiating part-time employment (53.2%).

Around 80% of interviewees believe that flexible working is beneficial to both the employer and employee in terms of time management and time efficiency, with 83.8% suggesting it would be good practice for organisations to implement such strategies.

A recent Eurobarometer poll has found that 47% of those interviewed believe that the gender pay gap is best tackled at EU level. However, respondents were almost evenly divided on how best to close the gap.

While the pay gap between women and men doing the same job with the same qualifications is seen as a serious problem by almost seven in ten Europeans (69%), respondents were divided on whether incentives or penalties would be more effective in reducing the gap.

The three possible remedies offered, namely "facilitating access for women and men to any type of employment" (27%), "imposing financial penalties on companies that do not respect gender equality" (26%), or "transparent pay scales in companies" (24%), all scored similar percentages.

When asked at what government level these measures are best taken, 47% of those interviewed said they favoured action at EU level, 38% at national level and 11% at local level.

Unsurprisingly, women saw gender inequalities, and the pay gap in particular, as more of a problem than men did. More than three in four women said that the gender pay gap is a serious problem (76%), compared to 62% of men. More men (35%), than women (21%), said that it was not a serious problem.

When asked about pay trends, 60% of respondents said they thought gender inequalities had decreased over the past ten years, whereas 12% thought that there had been no change.

A recent report has revealed the extent to which women are under-represented in senior executive and management positions across Europe.

According to the data published by Mercer, the ratio of senior executives and managers that were female averages 29% in countries across Europe compared to 71% of men. Mercer has also revealed that despite organisations’ efforts to achieve a diverse workforce, the majority (71%) do not have a clearly defined strategy or philosophy for the development of women into leadership roles.
Sophie Black, Principal in Mercer’s Executive Remuneration team, said “Women’s representation on company boards is a big issue and there is substantial noise in the EU about board diversity. It’s not just an issue of gender, of course, although discrimination in any form is undesirable. It’s also an issue of talent as it this sort of bias in a company limits the candidate pool and skill set. A more diverse workforce reduces turnover and absenteeism and increase innovation and creativity,”

The EU is committed to addressing gender inequality and the Gender Pay Gap as part of its EU Gender Action Plan. While there is opposition to the imposition of politics into the workplace, Mercer’s data underscores the role that political intervention can play in balancing the inequalities created by market forces. According to the data, former Soviet-bloc countries have the highest levels of female participation and equality in Europe. In fact, the nine countries showing the best representation of women in senior positions are ex-communist states.
In Western Europe, the countries with the greatest proportion of women in the executive suite amongst the sample group were Greece and Ireland (33%), followed by Sweden (30%) and Belgium (29%). Spain, UK and France all had 28% female representation.

Quota systems to increase women’s representation in business have been in existence for several years in countries like Spain, Norway, France, Belgium and Italy. In the UK, the government is taking steps to improve women’s representation in the boardroom following Lord Davis report Women on Boards which recommends increasing the proportion of women executives on boards of the FTSE 350 group of companies to 25% by 2012.

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