Launch of first ever ‘Bar Nursery’ to support female barristers’ careers

16 Apr

The Bar Council has launched the first ever ‘Bar Nursery‘, a childcare facility in central London, to help barristers with children honour their work and family commitments.

The Bar Nursery at Smithfield House – near the Inns of Court – will offer flexible, discounted childcare from 7am to 7pm for children aged eight weeks to five years old. The idea is to “ease the pressure” on self-employed barristers, who otherwise may be put off joining the profession. The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, may open up further Bar Nurseries across the country, depending on demand.

Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar, says:”It is important that members of the profession are not discouraged from starting a family because of their work, which could have a detrimental effect particularly on the number of women choosing a career at the Bar. It could also see talented practitioners leaving the self-employed Bar for a more stable working life in employed practice, or even another profession.”

It’s not often you hear of initiatives like this that are practical and take care of short-term priorities as well as keeping a long-term view of talent and diversity. If only other professions could follow suit.

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Cheers to the new vintage of women sommeliers

15 Apr
Women are increasingly taking the wine world by storm. (pic: )istockphoto.com/boule13

Women are increasingly taking the wine world by storm. (pic: istockphoto.com/boule13)

I love the thought of women breaking the stuffy ranks of male-dominated industries, which is why it was a delight to read this Bloomberg article: Women pull corks as female sommeliers take over cellars.

Maybe it’s female intuition, the ability to ‘read a table’ or her non-confrontational manner when discussing a wine list with customers. There’s probably no single reason, but the new vintage of sommeliers in New World and Old World is becoming increasingly female.

The article quotes figures from the Institute of Masters of Wine showing that there are 87 women out of 287 masters of wine across the world. And new masters coming through are more likely to be female than male. And in the US, a restaurant group says 40% of its sommeliers are women.

It quotes beverage director Liz Nicholson from a major New York hotel saying that the female touch has made wine drinking and ordering much less elitist: “Women sommeliers have really helped remove being so uptight about ordering wine,” she says.

I’ll certainly drink to that.

Is progress for women leaders a ‘false dawn’, asks Cranfield

12 Apr

In boardrooms across the UK, complacency is once again setting in. After an initial surge of female board appointments, the pace of change has considerably slowed.

The Female FTSE Board Report 2013 from the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders is titled: ‘False dawn of progress for women leaders’? It shows that in the first six months after the last report was published in March 2012 that 44% of new FTSE 100 board appointments went to women. But that progress has not been sustained. In the last six months, just 26% of FTSE board appointments were female, and 29% of FTSE 250 board places went to women. Cranfield said this drop was “worrying”.

Overall, the figures look like this:

  • 169 women hold 194 female-held directorships in 93 FTSE 100 boardrooms.
  • This total equals 17.3%, higher than last year’s 15%.
  • There are now seven FTSE 100 companies with all-male boards.
  • Two-thirds of FTSE 100 companies have more than one woman on their board.
  • Burberry is the only company to have two female executive directors.
  • 73% of FTSE 250 companies have women on their boards, up from last year’s 54%

Commenting on Cranfield’s Female FTSE report, its co-author Professor Susan Vinnicombe OBE said: “At Cranfield we have stood steadfast against quotas on the basis that chairmen must understand the benefits of gender diversity and commit to achieving it.  Undoubtedly a number of chairmen do get it and see a gender balanced board as the ‘new normal’.  Unfortunately too many chairmen choose to ignore the issue in the false hope that it will go away.  Viviane Reding’s demanding legislation is on its way and it goes far beyond Lord Davies’ recommendations. It is becoming a matter of urgency for those companies that do not have a gender balanced board to let go of their board stereotypes and appoint more creatively.”

Women with ‘elite’ education are increasingly opting out of full-time work

11 Apr

Work-life balance has taken a new turn. The higher the levels of study, the higher the chance that women will choose to opt-out of full-time work, says a study from Vanderbilt University.

The research found that 60% of female graduates from elite colleges are working full-time compared to 68% of women from other schools. Children are the key factor in hours women choose to work. Among graduates from ‘elite’ colleges, married women without children are 20 percentage points more likely to be employed than those with children.

The biggest difference is with women who have MBAs. Married mothers with an MBA and a first degree from a selective school are 30 percentage points less likely to be employed full-time than graduates of less selective schools, the study found.

Even though elite graduates are more likely to earn advanced degrees, marry at later ages and have higher expected earnings, they are still opting out of full-time work at much higher rates than other graduates, especially if they have children,” says Vanderbilt professor of law and economics Joni Hersch.

For a more in-depth understanding of her findings, read her full report: Opting Out among Women with Elite Education.

Women who work long hours risk piling on weight

3 Apr

The more hours women work, the more likely they are to gain weight. That’s the blunt finding of a study of 9,000 middle-aged Australian women.

Long hours are defined as 41-48 hours per week. Very long hours are 49-plus. The argument the researchers put forward for the weight gain of hard-working women is because they don’t have the time or energy to eat healthily or exercise. More than half of the women (55%) put on weight during the two years of the study, while a third (31%) lost weight.

Nicole Au, a research fellow at the Centre for Health Economics at Monash University who carried out the study, says: “These statistics provide some clues as to how employment patterns may affect lifestyle choices, and subsequently, body weight.”

The survey found that 65% who work more than 49 hours per week drink alcohol at risky levels, and 36% did not do any physical activity. These findings chime with a report out in the UK showing that women’s dangerous levels of drinking are causing more divorces. The Telegraph reports that women are drinking more to help them cope with work stress.

Feminism has failed working women, says IPPR report

1 Apr

The average woman is still earning less than men and doing more housework than her partner: evidence that decades of feminism have let women down. That’s according to a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in The Guardian.

The study says there has been too much focus on getting gender parity in the top roles rather than helping working-class women manage their lives and progress their careers. The focus on breaking the glass ceiling is a ‘decoy effect’, The Guardian reports.

The IPPR t says that there is still not a family-friendly culture in most workplaces, childcare is not accessible or affordable enough, and more part-time roles need to be made available.

The majority of women (77%) say they do more housework than their husbands. Just one in ten (10%) married men do an equal amount of housework, and 13% say they do more than their wives.

Dalia Ben-Galim, associate director of the IPPR, says: “While feminism has delivered for some professional women, other women have been left behind. Many of the advances for women at the top have masked inequality at the bottom.”

Childcare costs are becoming a luxury fewer can afford

6 Mar

Some nurseries in London cost more than the most expensive boarding schools in the UK, according to the Childcare Costs Survey 2013 from the Daycare Trust and the Family and Parenting Institute.

The research found that a place at Britain’s most expensive nursery £42,000, which is 25% more than a place at a top public school – putting childcare from the ‘necessity’ into the ‘luxury’ category in terms of working parents’ budgets.

Even once a child is at school, the costs are still racking up. Parents are paying nearly £4,000 for two children to be looked after before and after the school day – which exceeds that costs of a typical family holiday to Florida.

On average, a full-time nursery place costs £11,000. But this costs 77% more in real terms than it did in 2003, but earnings have stayed the same. This adds to the dilemma of many working mothers: can they afford to go out to work when much of their earnings are eaten up by childcare?

The Daycare Trust and the Family and Parenting say they believe that “major root and branch reforms are needed to create a childcare system that gives children the best start in life and that supports parents to work”.

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