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Women in the Boardroom – Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling

Published: Friday 14th June 2019

Grant Thornton’s 2019 Women in Business report has found that, globally, there are more women in senior management roles than ever before – rising from 24% in 2018 to 29% this year. In the UK, 32 FTSE 100 firms have reached the government target of a ratio of 33% women on boards.

Drinks group, Diageo, came out on top with 55% women on the board. However, it wasn’t all good news. According to work carried out by Cranfield University, there was a sharp drop in the number of women CEOs and CFOs on FTSE 250 boards down from 38 last year to 30.

Sector-wise, it was in retail where women did best of all. Almost two-thirds of all retail jobs are held by females – many of these in senior roles – understandable when you consider that women account for 85% of all retail spending.

Three business women smiling.

The gender pay gap is narrowing

While the figures demonstrate that things are improving for women when it comes to moving into management roles, we still aren’t quite there yet. The gender pay gap remains an issue although the gap seems to be narrowing. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported in 2018 that the overall gender pay gap fell from 18.4% in 2017 to 17.9% in 2018. For full-time roles only, the gap fell from 9.1% to 8.6%.

However, figures from the Chartered Management Institute and XpertHR show that the pay gap was higher for leadership roles, such as director and CEO. In 2015, men on an average basic salary of £131,673 earned £16,513 than their female counterparts. This was largely due to a ‘bonus gap’ – 43% of men were awarded a higher annual bonus compared to women. As the role becomes more senior, apparently so does the pay gap, with 54% of male senior managers receiving a bonus compared to 38% females of the same level of seniority.

The public service sector had the overall lowest gender pay gap of 16% compared to 23% in the private sector. The highest pay gaps are still found in construction and finance.

In an effort to tackle the issue, the government introduced legislation whereby companies with more than 250 employees had to begin publishing their gender pay gap figures from 2017. The resulting figures found that eight in ten firms paid men workers more than women.

Male and female symbols on piles of coins - Gender pay equality concept

Executive feminism is showing the way

What is clear is that the new legislation isn’t making much of a difference, as it doesn’t force companies to do anything other than own up to the fact that there is a problem. Real action needs to be taken to get more women into the boardroom and on the same salaries as men. To achieve this, leadership needs to come from the highest levels. Indeed, this may be one of the drivers behind the rise of executive feminism, whereby women that have made it to the top speak out on behalf of others and lead by example.

For change to happen, organisations must look at their recruiting and internal promotion processes to see whether they are truly fair, and publish detailed action plans along with statistics. Only then can firms prove that they are chipping away at the glass ceiling.

Creative background, business silhouette, business girl on the background of a beautiful, golden sunset. The concept of inspiration, enthusiasm, start-up, feminism symphony.

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