The MT Essays 40th Anniversary: Women in Business - the Long Haul to Parity

Article excerpt

Great progress has been made since the '60s in the quest for female equality in the workplace, but there's still that pay gap. Tactics for accelerating change are overdue.

If you believe in yourself, nothing is impossible. So said Michelle Dewberry after her victory on TV's The Apprentice. A truism indeed, but in the world of business, women have come up against obstacles that required a lot more than simple belief to overcome.

Even 40 years after the feminist revolution, educated working women - especially those in top jobs - are pioneers. MT's latest '35 Women Under 35' feature (July 2005) demonstrates the inroads that women are making across a wide range of professions and in science and engineering. No-one can doubt that there have been dramatic advances and that the climate is changing, but with only 11% of FTSE-100 women occupying a seat at the top table, we must not be blase. There is a long way to go yet.

So what will the next 40 years hold? I would certainly hope that this progress is accelerated and that we will see a much more representative boardroom. The Equal Opportunities Commission said earlier this year that it would take another 40 years for women to have the same sway in FTSE-100 companies as men. The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for greater opportunities for women, said that at the current rate of change it will take twice as long - 80 years - for women to close the full-time pay gap with men. At the current pace of change, it's going to be a long journey.

There is much talk of the existence of a glass ceiling and certainly individual, company-wide and societal barriers remain that prevent women from achieving their potential. Lack of senior female role models, commitment to personal and family responsibilities, stereotyping and preconceptions of women's roles continue to create bottlenecks in career progression. But time alone is no healer. For appropriate representation of women, firmer action is needed and in this effort we are all responsible. …