The workforce should reflect a society where more women are entering employment and pushing for better conditions and senior roles. The report, UK Skills and International Competitiveness, published by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, points to an increasing gap between male and female qualifications that will see women take two-thirds of high skilled jobs across the next six years. The expectations are that, by 2020, 49% of women will have degree-level qualifications, an increase from 39%, while men will experience the slower growth rate from 36% to 44%. Despite the encouraging signs, the report argues that there is work still to be done if high-skilled women are to get in the right place to benefit from the labour market. For many women their increased qualifications are not leading to improved pay or better jobs, suggesting that issues of entrenched inequality have not gone away entirely.
Campaigners against entrenched inequality could point to the recent decision from the House of Lords committee to oppose EU plans to introduce a 40% quota of women on boards by 2020 as evidence of gender discrimination. The committee labelled the EU’s recommended quota as misguided, pointing out that a more sustainable approach would be increasing the number of women entering business, rather than leading it. All of which was said despite recent stats showing that female representation of FTSE 100 boards had risen to 20.7% this year.
Figures show that gender inequality exists in the workplace, and no where is this more obvious than the pay gap between genders, with female bosses reportedly earning 35% less than their male equivalents. The gap is often difficult to prove, and very few women in senior roles want to challenge authority though fear of losing their livelihood. Yet if there was clear evidence, the company involved could end up facing a discrimination case in the tribunal courts.
Women have a great deal to offer businesses and the plan should be to move them up the company ranks at the same pace as their male counterparts. Too often women are held back from advancing up the ranks because of raising children and taking time off for maternity leave. This stifles their visibility and it may be that the new legislation regarding shared parental leave could work to reverse this situation, allowing women to come back to the workplace earlier without worrying about their child’s security.
All in all, it looks like it is the women are leading the way and it is men who now need to up their game.