Breaking the glass ceiling

CCB

 

Posted in: Analysis/Comment, Employees, Speaking Out

Breaking the glass ceiling

November 16, 1998

Opportunity 2000, the campaign to increase the quality and quantity of women’s progression in the UK workforce, has produced its first ever benchmarking report, charting achievement by member companies. Topics examined include mentoring, flexible working and childcare provision. Based on responses from 152 employers, key findings are:

banks and building societies lead private sector best practice;

one fifth of senior management positions are filled by women;

public sector employers provide almost four times as many cr?ches as private sector;

fewer than one in three employers sets targets for a gender balance in management.

The research was carried out for Opportunity 2000 by Roffey Park Management Institute and a full copy of the findings is available from BITC. Contact Zena James, BitC, on 0171 224 1600

LOCAL PARTNERSHIPS

A new National Childcare Strategy was published by the Department for Education and Employment on May 19, outlining plans to improve the quality, cost and accessibility of childcare linked to tax credits. The green paper, Meeting the Childcare Challenge, proposes targeting help on the lower paid and includes ideas for local childcare partnerships, a national helpline, training for care workers. Currently day nurseries offer 194,000 places, childminders 365,200 and playgroups 384,000. Contact DfEE Enquiries on 0171 925 5555

WORK-LIFE FORUM

Actively encouraged by the Government, BT is setting up a National Work-Life Forum to explore ways of working that produce a better balance between business demands and people’s personal lives. Chaired by Joanna Foster, who is also director of the BT Forum, it will be developed in partnership with government, other companies, trades unions and voluntary organisations. In 1999 the Forum plans to publish a strategy document on work-life issues. Contact National Work-Life Forum on 0171 492 8787

FAMILY FRIENDLY WORK

A step-by-step guide for employers on introducing childcare and family friendly employment practices in the workplace, entitled Families that Work, was published on May 26 by the charity, Daycare Trust, with Familylife Solutions. Among the potential benefits cited are low staff turnover rates, reduced recruitment costs, improved staff performance and a strong public image. A new MORI survey shows that almost nine in ten (88%) of the UK’s top 500 companies believe family friendly employment policies will become a more important business issue in the next five years. Contact Daycare Trust on 0171 831 6632

FLEXIBLE WORKING

Half the British workforce say they would be happier (53%) and perform better (48%) if they had more say in how their working hours were organised, a survey by MORI has found. Published by the TUC, it compared flexible working practices in the UK and the Netherlands, where the working day is legally limited. More than twice as many British people say they work anti-social hours (38%) than Dutch (16%). Among options to achieve flexible working while meeting family commitments, flexitime is the most favoured option (43% in Britain, 29% in Netherlands), especially among women. Contact Jo Morris, TUC, on 0171 467 1261

FAIRNESS AT WORK

The government’s white paper on labour relations, Fairness at Work, was finally published on May 21, after a long debate about union recognition rights. But the proposals also include provision to help develop a ‘family friendly’ culture, including:

rights to three months parental leave after one year’s service;

reduction to one year of the qualifying period for extended maternity absence;

extension of maternity leave to 18 weeks;

rights to reasonable time off for family emergencies.

Contact DTI enquiries on 0171 215 5000

DAUGHTERS AND SONS

Hundreds of companies used Take Our Daughters to Work Day on April 30 to promote the possibility of an industrial career for women. Among them was Standard Life in Edinburgh which also extended the day to boys. Since 1994, the charity, Our Daughters, has encouraged more girls into commerce and industry through the annual day and it is now developing a project to address the needs of boys. Contact Standard Life on 0131 225 2552

Comment

Few male managers will admit to the presence of a `glass ceiling’ in their organisation. Because they don’t consciously discriminate against women, they think it does not exist. But in reality, when specific action is taken to remove barriers, as Opportunity 2000 members have done through flexible working, help with childcare, mentoring and so forth, the gender balance starts to even up.

As with many other social responsibility issues, a key question here is how far enlightened self interest can take an individual company. The need to recruit and retain talent is a good incentive, justifying allocation of resources and investment of effort. Individuals too, especially the higher paid, can contribute to the cost of their children’s care. Some public resources can be justified, particularly to help the lower paid and to incentivise companies and individuals, best through tax credits.

However, with public expenditure limited, companies will find their most productive way forward is not waiting for government to act, but having a say in how existing resources are best allocated. Local childcare partnerships with councils, voluntary organisations and the growing for-profit childcare industry are a good idea. Once again, community relations managers can make the introductions for the mainstream, business colleagues..

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 40 – June, 1998

COMMENT:

Few male managers will admit to the presence of a `glass ceiling’ in their organisation.

Few male managers will admit to the presence of a `glass ceiling’ in their organisation. Because they don’t consciously discriminate against women, they think it does not exist. But in reality, when specific action is taken to remove barriers, as Opportunity 2000 members have done through flexible working, help with childcare, mentoring and so forth, the gender balance starts to even up.

As with many other social responsibility issues, a key question here is how far enlightened self interest can take an individual company. The need to recruit and retain talent is a good incentive, justifying allocation of resources and investment of effort. Individuals too, especially the higher paid, can contribute to the cost of their children’s care. Some public resources can be justified, particularly to help the lower paid and to incentivise companies and individuals, best through tax credits.

However, with public expenditure limited, companies will find their most productive way forward is not waiting for government to act, but having a say in how existing resources are best allocated. Local childcare partnerships with councils, voluntary organisations and the growing for-profit childcare industry are a good idea. Once again, community relations managers can make the introductions for the mainstream, business colleagues..

Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 40 – June, 1998

COMMENTS