How women are still waiting for equality in the UK workplace

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The Independent Online

We are supposed to be entering a golden age for women in the workplace, an era where enlightened employers would finally appreciate the true qualities of the fairer sex, and where "mumtrepreneurs" would set up successful businesses like never before.

The latest investigation into the issue finds just the opposite: gender equality at work is going backwards, says the accountancy and consultancy giant PwC.

Its research reveals that women in the UK are less likely to be in work, and more likely to experience lower job security and greater pay inequality, than their counterparts in other developed countries.

The PwC Women in Work Index shows that the UK was ranked in 18th position out of 27 OECD countries in 2011 on five key indicators of female economic empowerment: the equality of earnings with men; the proportion of women in work, both in absolute terms and relative to men; the female unemployment rate; and the proportion of women in full-time employment.

Margaret Cole, general counsel and executive board member at PwC, said: "At a time when the watchword for the UK economy is growth, encouraging greater economic empowerment for women has to be a priority to get the UK back on the road to recovery. It is worrying that increasing employment opportunities for women seems to have been pushed down organisations' agendas since the recession.

"There is no one silver bullet for solving increasing female participation in the workforce. Actions need to be taken from the top of organisations. Businesses should be held to account over their female promotion pipelines and diversity goals. Young women want visible and aspirational role models at all levels, and boards should be accountable for providing these."

Yong Jing Teow, author of the report, said: "It is worrying that the UK's progress in encouraging more women into work and closing the gender pay gap has all but ground to a halt since the recession hit. While most other OECD countries have continued to move ahead, our progress appears to have stalled."