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Women Occupy Only 30.9 Percent of Top UK Jobs, Says Study

Posted on the 29 May 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Women occupy only 30.9 percent of top UK jobs, says study

Women are still hugely outnumbered by men in the workplace, figures show. Photo credit: Jerry Bunkers

The background

A study by BBC News has revealed that women currently occupy only 30.9 percent of top jobs in 11 key sectors, including the worlds of business, politics and policing. Women are lagging behind men most acutely in the armed forces and judiciary, whilst the sector that they succeed in most is secondary education – 36.7 percent of head teachers are women. Out of the general UK workforce, only 32 percent of managers and senior officials are women. The Periscope Post has rounded up the reaction to these new figures.

Progress is too slow

The Home Office have said that it aims to have more than half of new public appointments filled by women by 2015, and have told FTSE 100 companies to have a minimum of 25 percent women directors by 2015. But for some, this is not good enough. The BBC quoted Preethi Sundaram from campaign group the Fawcett Society: “Men outnumber women by four to one in Parliament and only a third of local councillors are women. When we look at the top quarters of power in the political world there are only five women there out of 22 … It’s quite an appalling fact really.” They also quoted Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, who said, “that, at the current rate of change, it would take more than 70 years to reach gender-balanced boardrooms in the UK.”

Are quotas the answer?

The government wrote to the European Comsission on 28 May to state that it did not give its support to quotas, saying that there was no need for “burdensome regulation.” The Telegraph said that the government “instead will merely encourage firms to hire more women in executive positions.” The newspaper quoted Home Secretary Theresa May: “We are encouraging firms to use women’s talents by helping them see the business benefits. But we must allow them to get on with their job.” She also said that there was no place in the UK for the ‘golden skirt’ quota system for large companies that exists in Norway and Iceland.

Women important for economic growth

Business Secretary Vince Cable has stressed that having diversity in the workplace is not just a question of equality, but a question of growth and prosperity. HR Magazine flagged up Cable’s opinion that “diverse boards make better decisions and are more effective,” and sentiment that encouraging competition in the workplace – so that women are awarded positions on the basis of merit – is perfectly in line with the government’s focus on the stimulation of business and entrepreneurialism.

Women need to push themselves

The BBC interviewed women in senior management positions and found many to believe that women shouldn’t expect to be handed advantages. President of BT Global Services Emer Timmons said, “sometimes people still think they should be handed things – but they’ve just absolutely got to have more confidence in their abilities.” Leadership psychologist Averil Leimon suggested that women taking a backseat in business stems from a natural reluctance to take risks that starts during puberty, leading to increased anxiety in later life about personal abilities, whereas men put themselves forward and ignore their personal shortcomings.

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