Women face 70-year wait for top jobs equality

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The Independent Online

It will take 70 years to achieve parity between men and women in the country's top jobs, according to a report released today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The survey Sex and Power 2011, dubbed a "call to arms" by women's employment-rights campaigners, reveals that women represent only 12.5 per cent of directors of FTSE 100 companies. They also account for just 22.2 per cent of MPs, an imbalance which would take 14 general elections to redress. It also notes little change in the figures presented in the last report, released in 2008.

Figures show that women in the media are faring even worse than three years ago, representing 9.5 per cent of national newspaper editors, a fall from the 13.6 per cent recorded in 2008, and 6.7 per cent of FTSE 350 media companies' chief executives, down from 10.5 per cent in 2008. However, 26.1 per cent of directors of major museums and art galleries are women, up from 17.4 per cent.

The report also found that 12.9 per cent of senior members of the judiciary are women and there has been a slight fall in the number of female university vice-chancellors: 14.3 per cent, down from 14.4 per cent in 2008.

The report estimates that thousands of women are "missing" from the country's 26,000 most powerful posts. The authors calculated that, if parity were to be reached, 5,400 women would need to be appointed in place of their male counterparts.

"It's 2011 and women remain largely excluded from positions of power and influence in virtually every sphere of life – the media, the judiciary, the education sector and more," said Anna Bird, acting chief executive of the women's employment-rights group the Fawcett Society.

She added: "Without radical action, babies born today will be drawing their pensions before they can hope to have an equal say in the world of politics, business and education.

"This report must act as a call to arms; the Government and others can no longer turn a blind eye to this injustice, wishing and hoping it will sort itself out. We look forward to hearing all political parties respond to this report, and explain their plans to challenge the stark and persistent injustice that is the absence of women from positions of power across the country.

"Until David Cameron honours his pledge to run a cabinet where women make up one-third of the ministers, the Coalition Government's calls on business and others to open up their top tables to women sound hollow."

The authors blamed the disparity on "outdated working patterns where long hours are the norm, inflexible organisations and the unequal division of domestic responsibilities are major barriers to women's participation in positions of authority".

Commissioner Kay Carberry said: "The gender balance at the top has not changed much in three years, despite there being more women graduating from university and occupying middle-management roles. We had hoped to see an increase in the number of women in positions of power; however, this isn't happening.

"Many women disappear from the paid workforce after they have children, so employers lose their skills. Others become stuck in positions below senior management, leaving many feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. Consequently, the higher ranks of power in many organisations are still dominated by men.

"If Britain is to stage a strong recovery from its current economic situation, then we have to make sure we're not wasting women's skills and talents."

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