Deeds not words

This year it’s 100 years since women in the UK won the right to vote, things have changed significantly for women particularly in the workplace, thanks to those who campaigned for equality a century ago. Depressingly though, the latest economic gender gap report released by the World Economic Forum shows that it will take another 217 years to achieve gender parity significantly longer than the 170 years reported just a year ago. Way, too, slow.
The World Economic Forum at Davos this year has gender equality as a central theme and for the first time the event is being chaired exclusively by women, responding no doubt to criticism of a lack of gender diversity in previous years
So how did the cause of Gender equality fare in 2017?
The good news…
Women’s equality, the gender pay gap, sexual harassment all received unprecedented levels of coverage, we saw women march to protest against Donald Trump across the globe (an event that grew virally) and we saw the Harvey Weinstein scandal create an outpouring of anger and solidarity, #metoo and #timesup showed the strength and depth of feeling around sexual harassment in the workplace and wider and the need for change.
The argument around gender diversity has been supported by studies showing that companies with a diverse leadership team are more innovative, make better decisions and are more profitable. Job done right?
The deadline for gender pay gap reporting requirement for companies of over 250 employees is April 2018, some high profile companies have already published their numbers, (notably the BBC) there has been debate, backlash and a commitment to change.
The Hampton Alexander review has extended its target of 30% of women on boards by 2020 to include the FTSE 350 as well as the FTSE 100.
Returner initiatives are becoming more prevalent, many large companies are encouraging women back into the workforce and the Government has invested £5m in schemes for the public sector.
The bad news…
Progress is slowing and often the data hides the true story.

  • In 2006 according to WEF data the UK ranked 9th globally for economic gender parity, now it’s 15th
  • The Hampton Alexander review showed that proportion of new board positions going to women was at a 5 year low.
  • 83% of appointments to FTSE 100 boards were non-exec positions (Source: Beyond Analysis)
  • There are only 7 female CEOs within the FTSE 100 and 7 companies with all-male boards.

The structural support that women need to reach leadership positions is often non-existent.

  • 475,500 fewer women earn over £100k in the latest data available to 2015, that number has widened by 23% over 5 years and is worsened by maternity pay.
  • Child Care is expensive – an OECD report showed the UK as being the most expensive country, the cost of childcare representing 34% of net family income.
  • Women are 20% less likely to get workplace training.
  • A PWC study from 2016 claims three in five professional women returners were likely to move into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles, and will experience a loss of a third of their earnings.
  • Flexible working is still seen as a “perk” and part-time work regarded as lower status and a lack of commitment. Job design does not reflect the needs of the workforce, men and women.

The post-Brexit future of work is uncertain

  • In a report from its first meeting of 2018, Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee questioned how committed the UK would be, post Brexit to reduce and eliminate the gender pay gap without the pressure of EU initiatives and laws.
  • The WEF report on the future of work predicts that 57% of jobs set to be displaced by technology are those done by women.

In the last year, many of the companies we’ve met and worked with have admitted that more needs to be actually done, less PR, less talking, less lip-service, more action. The workplace is still being described as “in a time warp, designed for our fathers and grandfathers” Last year’s theme for International Women’s Day was #beboldforchange, what did you or your organisation change? Bring on the workplace revolution, it’s well overdue


Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash