Opportunity 2000

December 01, 1992

Opportunity 2000

December 01 1992

by Mike Tuffrey

– marks the first birthday of its campaign to redress the gender balance at work.

Opportunity 2000 published its first annual report on November 17 at a meeting in London attended by 300 executives from public and private sector employers. 141 organisations have now joined the campaign, covering some 25% of the UK workforce. The annual report covers the progress of the original 61 signatories in meeting their goal to increase the quality and quantity of womens’ participation – one third now have flexible working arrangements for all staff, half offer some form of mentoring programme, two-thirds have common pay and conditions and almost all offer training or education to increase opportunities. The biggest single barrier to overcome has been identified as lack of internal communication, so as to achieve commitment and understanding at all levels.

Among the speakers at the anniversary event were Lady Howe, Chairman of the campaign, Gillian Shephard MP, Employment Secretary, and Geoff Mulcahy, Chairman and Chief Executive of Kingfisher. He said Kingfisher had increased the number of female trainee managers from 37% to 43% in year one of a five year action plan, with changes to achieve flexibility in working patterns. Certain positions, mainly filled by women, had been regraded which will enhance career paths. Contact Liz Bargh, BITC, on 071 925 2899 and Jackie Brock-Doyle, Kingfisher, on 071 724 7749

Britain has the second highest number of working women in the EC, according to the annual statistical survey Women and Men in Britain, published by the Equal Opportunities Commission on October 20. A third of the 15 million part-time workers in the EC are in Britain. However the gap between earnings by men and women is among the largest. For example in banking, finance and insurance, women earn barely half men’s pay on average in the UK. Contact Carol Foster, EOC, on 071 287 3953

Women will benefit from the likely changes in the workforce composition during this decade, according to a report published on November 13 jointly by the Institute of Careers Guidance and the employment consultancy CREATE. 1.2 million blue collar jobs will be lost, while 1.9 million new jobs are created in skills-intensive, knowledge-based occupations. The detailed report looks at trends in various categories of employment and highlights the importance of continuous learning to adapt to the changes. Contact Amin Rajan, CREATE, on 0892 526757

The attitude of men is the biggest single obstacle to the advancement of women at work, according to an Institute of Management survey of 1,500 women and 800 men, published with support from the stores group, BhS, on November 2. One in three women said they do not receive adequate respect from male superiors. Women can also suffer from working in a function – personnel or administration – from which promotions to senior management are less frequently made. The report includes detailed recommendations for action. (The Institute of Management was formed from the merger on November 1 of the British Institute of Management and the Institution of Industrial Management.) For copies, price £30, contact IM Books on 0272 724248

Around one hundred people attended a conference on November 5 on partnership in childcare, organised by the Working for Childcare campaign and sponsored by TSB Group. Examples of partnership in action were considered, following up the detailed Practical Guide, published with TSB Group support earlier in the year, which sets out a recommended approach drawing on the lessons of 21 case studies. Working for Childcare also offers a consultancy service for employers. Contact Fiona Cannon, TSB Group, on 071 606 2775 or Sue Finch, Working for Childcare, on 071 700 0281

Women returning to work after a child care break can feel their career has suffered a set-back, according to a survey of 800 women published in Beyond the Career Break. Conducted by the Institute of Manpower Studies at the University of Sussex and published on October 15, the survey found the proportion satisfied with career progression fell from 84% to 64%. However more employers are accepting the possibility of part-time working in senior positions. Beyond the Career Break is part of the IMS Cooperative Research programme in which employers such as Abbey National, British Gas, Marks & Spencer and Shell UK have participated. Contact Sue Kent, IMS, on 0273 686751


One year older, one year wiser. Three factors emerge clearly on this first anniversary of Opportunity 2000. First, most employees with childcare responsibilities need practical help from their employers, if they are to combine parenting with a career. That means flexible working arrangements and an element of subsidy for day care, either through the state or the employer or a combination.

Second, sexist attitudes are still deeply ingrained, as revealed by the study reported above by the new Institute of Management. The need for better communication and commitment at all levels of the company ring true as conclusions from Opportunity 2000’s first year.

Third, even in the midst of the recession, there are steps companies can take – can it really be true that one-third of Opportunity 2000 companies do not offer common terms of pay and conditions? – but a large investment in subsidised nurseries is unlikely until economic prospects improve. Last year the Prime Minister give his personal commitment to the campaign. The Conservative Manifesto promised funding for after-school care and holidays. However there is no sign of real action yet to bring government, business and voluntary providers together ina strategy and then to lubricate the process with grants or tax relief.

For community affairs managers, the fundamentals remain the same: this is a key social issue which responsible employers both need, and need to be seen, to address, even if the demographic recruitment/retention pressures are still some way off.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 7 – December, 1992