What’s hindering women in business?

With an increased focus on equal opportunities in business, many companies are looking to improve the gender balance in their workforce. But often it is the case that women are left in the dust when it comes to hiring.

On the FTSE 100, there are only 18 executive directors who are female compared with 292 males. This is lower than in 2007, prior to the recession.

A group of MPs known as the Conservative Women’s Forum has been investigating why so many women are failing to get to the top of business and are calling on companies to be more transparent about their hiring of women. Two of these MPs, Therese Coffey and Mary Macleod, added that employing more women is fairer and makes business sense.

But what are the main problems in the way of women who want to get ahead in business?

Needless to say, social norms surrounding motherhood and the responsibility of women to put their children above their careers seems to be one of the central issues.

Early in June, the Women’s Business Council released a report suggesting that employing more women could help to boost growth in the UK’s economy. However, it found that 2.4 million women wanted to work but are unemployed while 1.3 million do not have enough hours.

The solution that the Council came up with was to encourage more flexible working policies so that women could balance home and family life. This suggests that, rather than making further allowances for their partner to take charge of the children, women would instead be expected to make their career work around their family.

But government has been paving the way for more fathers to get involved in childcare, having introduced regulations for shared parental leave.

Nevertheless, figures suggest that it will take more work to encourage fathers to take the full amount of parental leave they are entitled to. A Trades Union Congress (TUC) report revealed that from 2011 to 2012 a mere 1,650 fathers out of a total of 285,000 took their full paternity leave.

Yet, as the TUC pointed out, with only £136 per week to survive on and employers unwilling to top them up, it is no wonder that parents find leave unsustainable.

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