Sex and Power: 5,400 women missing from top jobs

A new report, published today by the Commission, shows a continuing trend of women being passed over for top jobs in Britain. More than 5,400 women are missing from Britain’s 26,000 most powerful posts [1].

The report, Sex & Power 2011, measures the number of women in positions of power and influence across 27 occupational categories in the public and private sectors. 

The Commission’s report calculates that at the current rate of change it will take around 70 years to reach an equal number of men and women directors of FTSE 100 companies. It also found it could be up to 70 years before there are an equal number of women MPs in parliament – another 14 general elections. 

Worryingly, the results of this year’s report differ very little from those in the previous report of 2008..

Figures from this year’s report reveal that, while women are graduating from university in increasing numbers and achieve better degree results than men, and despite level pegging with men in their twenties, they are not entering management ranks at the same rate, and many remain trapped in the layer below senior management.  

Among this year’s findings were:

In politics women represent:

  • 22.2 per cent of MPs (up from 19.3 per cent in 2008)
  • 17.4 per cent of Cabinet members (down from 26.1 per cent in 2008)
  • 21.9 per cent of members of the House of Lords (up from 19.7 per cent in 2008)
  • 13.2 per cent of Local authority council leaders (down from 14.3 per cent in 2008)

In business women represent:

  • 12.5 per cent of directors of FTSE 100 companies (up from 11 per cent in 2008)
  • 7.8 per cent of directors in FTSE 250 companies (up from 7.2 per cent in 2008)

In media and culture, women represent:

  • 9.5 per cent of national newspaper editors (down from 13.6 per cent in 2008)
  • 6.7 per cent of chief executives of media companies in the FTSE 350 and the director general of the BBC (down from 10.5 per cent in 2008)
  • 26.1 per cent of directors of major museums and art galleries (up from 17.4 per cent in 2008)

In the public and voluntary sector, women represent:

  • 12.9 per cent of senior members of the judiciary (up from 9.6 per cent in 2008)
  • 22.8 per cent of local authority chief executives (up from 19.5 per cent in 2008)
  • 35.5 per cent of head teachers  of secondary schools (down from 36.3 per cent in 2008)
  • 14.3 per cent of university vice chancellors (down from 14.4 per cent in 2008)

Studies have shown that 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. 

The British economy is paying the price for this exclusion.  It has been suggested that greater diversity on corporate boards would improve business performance and increase levels of corporate social responsibility. 

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.”

-Ends-
 

For more press information contact the Commission’s media office on 020 3117 0255, out of hours 07767 272 818.

For general enquiries please contact the Commission’s national helpline: England 0845 604 6610, Scotland 0845 604 5510 or Wales 0845 604 8810.

Notes to Editors

[1] This figure is calculated by adding up all the posts held by men and women, halving that figure so that all posts would be shared equally between the two sexes, minus the number of posts held by women.

The Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission.  It is the independent advocate for equality and human rights in Britain.  It aims to reduce inequality, eliminate discrimination, strengthen good relations between people, and promote and protect human rights.  The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or transgender status, and encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act.  It also gives advice and guidance to businesses, the voluntary and public sectors, and to individuals.

Last Updated: 17 Dec 2014