Quotas needed to close Britain's workplace gender gap: Study

‘We have to take a proactive approach if we want to drive change’: Equality charity CEO

Quotas needed to close Britain's workplace gender gap: Study
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May meets workers during a visit to Boss Design during a campaign stop in Dudley, Britain, April 23. REUTERS/Darren Staples



(Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Britain should implement workplace gender quotas, an equality charity said on Monday, as it published research showing women hold fewer than 45 per cent of top jobs in the country.

The Fawcett Society study found women were under-represented across major institutions and industries including the government, judiciary, media and business.

It said it was calling for workplace quotas and for all jobs to be made more flexible to redress the imbalance, which persists despite laws against gender discrimination.

"There's a very consistent imbalance of power and this worries me," the Fawcett Society's chief executive, Sam Smethers, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"We have to take a proactive approach if we want to drive change."

Women make up 26 per cent of cabinet ministers, 16.7 per cent of Supreme Court justices and 17.6 per cent of national newspaper editors, according to the 2018 study.

Just six per cent of chief executives of FTSE 100 companies, the biggest firms listed on the London Stock Exchange, are women.

Workplace gender equality has been in the spotlight in Britain since last year when it emerged there were pay disparities at major public institutions including the BBC.

A law introduced in 2017 required companies and charities with more than 250 workers to provide details every year of the gender pay gap.

Britain lags some countries including Norway, which in 2003 pioneered gender quotas, requiring nearly 500 firms to raise the proportion of women on their boards to 40 per cent.

Smethers said that while commitment to address the issue appeared to be growing, there were still not enough mechanisms in place to bring about change.

Senior roles could be made more flexible, with part-time options or on a job-share basis, to open them up more to women, she said.

Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it supported flexible working and suggested fathers should also be given more support to take on a greater role in child care.

"A century on from women's suffrage, it's disappointing to hear that women, of all backgrounds, are still so poorly represented across every sector of our society," an EHRC spokesperson said.

The first statue of a woman to appear on London's Parliament Square will be unveiled on Tuesday. The statue of British suffragist Millicent Fawcett — who inspired the Fawcett Society — marks the centenary of women getting the vote in Britain.


Latest stories