We read about it in the press every week – how women get paid less than men and that women are few and far between in top-level jobs. But is the situation really this gloomy, and do glass ceilings really exist? Well there are certainly stats to suggest that they do.
According to the National Management Salary Survey, women are paid an average of 12% less than men working in similar roles, and resignation rates among women directors and professionals are at a five-year high. The number of sex discrimination and equal pay cases has also soared, exceeding 28,000 and 44,000, respectively, between 2006 and 2007.
Some parents feel that having children can have a negative impact on career progression. As one mother said in a survey conducted by womenintechnology.co.uk: ?A late-in-life maternity leave killed any chance of promotion stone dead.?
It seems that glass ceilings become more apparent further up the career ladder, in more senior positions. One survey respondent certainly felt this was the case. ?[Being a woman] didn?t seem to be a problem when I was more junior. As I became more senior it certainly started to feel like there is a ceiling.?
But are things really this bad? Yes, some sexist views remain and they probably always will, but the situation has certainly improved drastically in recent years. Today, there are more laws than ever protecting us against sex discrimination and unfair dismissal, and setting out our rights to maternity leave and pay. With 123 female held directorships in the FTSE 100 (11% of the total) women today are going from strength to strength.
A major reason why there are fewer women in the more senior positions may be that many just choose not to be there. Some mothers make a conscious decision to work part-time, or to work at a more junior level with less responsibility as it means they are able to dedicate more time to their family. It’s a choice that every career woman has to make – even when they work for themselves. One respondent said ?I?ve generally done OK in my jobs, but if you really want to ?get on? then you have to be prepared to spend a reasonable amount of time away from your family ? and I?m no longer prepared to do that.?
Being a working mother is like having two full-time jobs and handling both can often seem like an impossible task. Working mothers need the support of their employers, and a good support network for both themselves and their families. And more employers need to put as much more effort into retraining and upskilling returners ? and therefore ensuring that they keep their key talent ? as they do into their graduate trainee schemes. And women in the workforce in these senior roles have skills that are beneficial to the workforce. When women leave their jobs behind because the work-life balance skews to far to one corner, it’s not just the woman who loses out, it’s the employer.
As one survey respondent put it: ?More should be done to keep women in managerial positions, even part time. A lot of women are offered a lesser position when returning from maternity leave. No wonder they quit!?
By Maggie Berry from womenintechnology.co.uk