Below is an article in our latest Owl Business News which should be of interest. How many women are in high-level jobs, what's holding them back, and are enforced quotas the way forward? Quotas are a hot topic and there are reasons for and against. Would quotas undermine women already in high-level positions?  What's your view?  Follow the link at the bottom to our LinkedIn group

The number of women in the workplace has traditionally been measured in terms of how many board level seats they hold. And in recently conducted research by Catalyst, the UK doesn't fair too well, but then it doesn't fair too poorly either. According to the data, corporate boards in the UK are made up of around 15% women, level pegging with Israel, losing out to United States and the Scandinavian countries, but just ahead of Germany and France. 

In February 2011 Lord Mervyn Davies, the former Chief Executive of Standard Chartered lead the government's review of the number of women on company boards. He recommended that all UK FTSE 100 companies aim for at least 25% female board members by 2015. And one year on there has been a sizeable step forward - that figure now sits at 15.6%, an increase from 12.5% (source: Cranfield University 'The Female FTSE Board Report 2012').

And now pressure is becoming greater on businesses to even the score and reveal their statistics as the European Commission still threatens to introduce new quotas to increase the number of women in the boardroom. 

Totting up how many board seats are held by women is one way of measuring equality in the workplace because this information is readily available – publicly traded companies are generally required to publish it. But these figures are perhaps missing a bigger picture. What would be more helpful in measuring gender equality and women in the workplace would be a wider picture of the whole business structure, including the number of business departments headed up by women, whether women in the organisation are clustered in certain job sectors or if there is an even spread of male and female workers across all functions. Statistics on promotions that have been made and the ability for women to progress their career would be helpful and give a more insightful picture of the current situation. 

Research shows that equal pay claims with employment tribunals are up 500% in the last four years. Females consistently out-perform males in education, and policies are changing to allows couples to share maternity leave, all moves in the right direction. 

The Institute of Directors is holding an event on Tuesday 15th May in Manchester called the IoD North West Women Directors’ Forum “Connect and Inspire”. The forum will feature speeches from female business leaders, and it is designed to fit with International Women's Day's theme of “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures”, by allowing members to bring along a female guest between the ages at 16 and 25. For more information visit the IoD website 

Ultimately it should be the 'best person for the job' rather than enforced quotas, but who's to say the best people are getting the jobs if the work environment is unfair on women and they are held back from moving up because they may have taken a year out with children or because they are left with the majority of childcare duties because the workplace doesn't recognise fathers' responsibilities and desire to share childcare duties? Perhaps levelling the playing field first before resorting to positive discrimination is the logical way forward. 

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