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Welsh government commits to 40% quota for women on public boards

4 Mar

The Welsh government has set a target for women to make up 40% of public appointments, according to a report on the BBC website.

While most organisations have stopped short of applying quotas to encourage more women into senior positions, the Welsh government points to the example of Sport Wales. The body trebled the number of women applying to join its board after making the application wording and process more ‘gender friendly’. T board went from eight men and one woman to five women and nine men in 2012.

Equalities Minister Jane Hutt says Sport Wales sets an ideal example for other organisations to follow. The BBC quotes her as saying: “”Our programme for government includes a commitment to ensure that at least 40% of appointments to public roles in Wales are women, but we need all organisations to play their part in helping us achieve this ambitious target.”

This announcement comes days before International Women’s Day 2013. Expect lots more debate on the pros and cons of boardroom gender quotas.

The true legacy of the Olympic Games is the new generation of female role models

12 Aug

Speak to any woman about the Olympic Games, and she’ll tell you she aspires to have a six-pack stomach like Jessica Ennis. Ask any little girl who she’d like to be when she grows up, and – when she’s finished cartwheeling and doing handstands – she’ll say she wants to win a medal like Beth Tweddle.

I can’t hear any child saying she aspires to put on pretend lashes, fake tan and pose half naked for a men’s magazine. The women who won the medals did so through determination, dedication and a desire to develop their talents as far as they will go – and then push them some more.

London 2012 has been a defining moment for female role models. (pic: istockphoto.com)

London 2012 is defined as being the moment when women came to the fore, gave their all, and walked away with armfuls of medals – becoming role models in the process. More than a third (36%) of Team GB medals in these Olympic Games have been won by women.

And, perhaps more importantly for role models for the future, Continue reading

Why I will always feel excited about using my vote

3 May

It was the morning of the Mayoral/London Assembly elections. I was nudging my eight-year-old daughter to wake up. I was flexing my polling card, eager to catch the polls first thing. She was catching my excitement about voting, but not really understanding why.

She said, while getting dressed in hurry so I could get out to the polling booth before work: “So, mummy: do you have to vote?”

Feel the pull of the poll?

How do I, a professional woman who makes all the choices over her entire life – and who has grown up against a backdrop of increasingly powerful female contribution to business and the economy – meant to say to a little girl who has only known that she can do anything the boys can do, and better?

While I do, of course, teach her that it’s about being true to yourself – not competing on any gender level – I did find myself faced with her facial expressions of derision, disbelief and dismay that there could have been a time when women weren’t equal to men and they had to resort to chaining themselves to railings and fighting to get the vote .

I tried to keep my explanation light and Continue reading

Are recruiters key to boardroom diversity?

28 Feb

How hard can it be to find competent women to perform boardroom roles? (pic credit: istockphoto.com/tiler84)

Boardroom quotas? Who wants them – really?

Who wants to be a woman chosen just to make up the numbers? And who wants to be a man sitting elbow-to-elbow with a woman at the polished table of power, believing she ‘s only there for quantity rather than quality?

In some circles, quotas amount to positive discrimination: women and ethnic minorities should only ever be promoted/appointed on merit, and on the basis of being absolutely the right person for the job. In other circles, quotas are being discussed in terms of a grudging necessity, or a dragging inevitability. A survey from White Water Group revealed that two-thirds of senior women believe that quotas may be the only way to achieve Lord Davies’ target of 25% female board representation by 2015.

Yet a year on from the Davies report, and quotas are the hot potato that no one wants to grasp or end up lumbered with. Among the many surveys that have been carried out to mark the one-year anniversary, it is the comments from recruitment firms that stand out.

Instead of being victims of the story here – wringing our hands and wondering whether governmental intervention will sort out a problem Continue reading

Two-thirds of female lawyers say gender holds them back

27 Feb

The proportion of female partners in top European law firms is tiny. (pic credit: istockphoto.com/liveostockimages)

The UK may have the most female partners in Magic Circle law firms across Europe, but progress up the ranks is slow and hampered by gender, according to a survey from international legal recruiter Laurence Simons.

Its research showed that the proportion of female partners was 16% – a tiny percentage – equal with Holland, but far too low when you consider that in China women make up 28% of the senior levels of major law firms. Spain has the smallest percentage of female partners (6.3%), Germany has 9.6%, and France has 13%.

Commenting on the findings that two-thirds of female lawyers believe being a woman holds them back in their legal careers, Lucinda Moule, managing director of Laurence Simons, said  “It’s certainly good news that the UK is leading the way in ensuring gender diversity at the highest level, but ultimately these results demonstrate the desperate need for top-tier firms to make better provision for the promotion of women.

“The fact that European nations are so far behind emerging economies such as China – where 28% of partners are women, despite the population comprising 119 men for every 100 women – demonstrates antiquated promotion practices are entrenched in the developed economies of Europe.”

Women’s ‘woeful’ representation in top jobs is blamed on ‘maternity penalty’

21 Feb

Women account for less than one in three senior roles. (pic credit: istockphoto.com/sturti)

Women account for less than a third of senior management positions in Europe – and are penalised for putting childcare duties above work responsibilities, according to research from Mercer.

The report Women in Business – Analysis of Gender Representation in Executive/Management Roles Across Europe – says that the ratio of women: men in senior roles across Europe is 29:71. The UK averages 28%.

It says that corporate often forces women to choose between putting work first at all costs, or “deselecting” themselves from the culture that cannot accommodate work-life balance.

Sophie Black, principal in Mercer’s Executive Remuneration team, elaborates on this point: “For a gender comprising over half the global population, women’s representation in senior corporate roles is woeful. The cause is complicated. It’s cultural, social, in some cases it is intentional discrimination but it can also be unconscious – the desire to recruit people like you. This unconscious bias is hard to eradicate. The end result of all these issues is Continue reading

Multitasking is stressful for working mothers

2 Dec

Working mothers multitask for 40% of their waking hours. (pic credit: istockphoto.com/CareyHope)

I do love it when a study  proves what we already know – that working women are brilliant multitaskers, and do much more multitasking than men – but new research shows just how stress working mothers are as a result of all this juggling.

Working mothers in the US multitask in the home for more than 40% of the time they’re awake: they do 48.3 hours compared to 38.9 hours for men, which the Offer-Schneider study says contributes to gender inequality because women are carrying the burden of housework, childcare, as well as bringing in an income.

The research shows that women engage in tasks that are more onerous: 52.7% of multitasking for working women involved housework, compared with 42.2% of fathers (though I think this number is rather high). And 35.5% of multitasking for women at home involved childcare, compared with 27.9% for fathers.

However, the significant point in this research is that multitasking at home and in public is a more negative experience for working mothers “because mothers’ activities are more susceptible to outside scrutiny”.

Study co-author Barbara Schneider, the John A. Hannah Chair and University Distinguished Professor in the College of Education and Department of Sociology at Michigan State University, said: “Mothers’ activities in  are highly visible to other people. Therefore, their ability to fulfill their role as good mothers can be easily judged and criticised when they multitask in these contexts, making it a more stressful and negative experience for them than for fathers, who face less normative pressures and are under less scrutiny when they perform and multitask at home and in public.”

She recommends that fathers “step up” and do a bigger share of housework and childcare. And she recommends that policymakers and employers should create more opportunities for fathers to be involved with their families, such as allowing time off for family/school events, and not bringing work home with them – so that there can be “more egalitarian norms” for parenting roles.

However, the conclusion is that trying to do it all – to be superwoman – just isn’t making working mothers happy.

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