Cracks grow in the glass ceiling

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The Independent Online
Women making it to the top in business may still feel like members of a rare species, but the latest figures from the Institute of Management suggest that their numbers could be swelling.

The organisation's latest annual salary survey shows that the number of female executives is rising faster than at any time in the past three years. Moreover, the pay gap between them and their male counterparts is closing.

The findings form a marked contrast with those of four years ago, when there was widespread dismay after the survey showed a reversal of the steady rise in female managers. However, the past two years have seen the proportion jump from 10.7 per cent of the total managerial ranks to, first, 12.3 per cent and then 15.2 per cent.

The increase was particularly marked at section leader level, where the proportion has risen from 14.4 per cent to 18.2 per cent in the past year. But women now account for 4.5 per cent of board members, as opposed to 3.3 per cent last year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, women managers have done particularly well in such areas as personnel and marketing and not so well in manufacturing and production, research and development and purchasing and contracting.

The earnings gap is closing thanks to the fact that in past year women managers have seen their pay rise 7.4 per cent while that of their male counterparts has only gone up 6 per cent. The previous year, both sexes enjoyed pay rises of 4.7 per cent. Women directors did even better - seeing pay go up 9.2 per cent, compared with 7.8 per cent for men.

This adds up to a picture of the average female manager being aged 37 and earning pounds 31,550 after 11 years with the organisation. Her male colleague is seven years older, earns pounds 4,200 more and has been with the organisation for six more years. The average female director is 40, earns pounds 71,126 and has worked at the organisation for eight years. Her male boardroom colleague is likely to be eight years older, earn more than pounds 20,000 more than her and have worked in his present organisation for nearly twice as long.

This discrepancy is explained, says the Institute of Management, by the fact that the largest boardroom salaries traditionally go to chief executives and finance directors - posts still largely held by men.

Nevertheless, Roger Young, director general of the institute, said he was encouraged by the results and added: "Women have demonstrated their talents."