Still Some 'Hard Nuts to Crack' in Getting a Fairer Deal for Women; 2012 Marks 20 Years since the Creation in Wales of Chwarae Teg - a Unique Organisation Whose Specific Aim Is to Maximise Women's Contribution in the Workforce and the Economy. Here Its Chief Executive, Katy Chamberlain, Reflects on Two Decades of Unlocking Opportunities and Fulfilling Potential for Women

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 1, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Still Some 'Hard Nuts to Crack' in Getting a Fairer Deal for Women; 2012 Marks 20 Years since the Creation in Wales of Chwarae Teg - a Unique Organisation Whose Specific Aim Is to Maximise Women's Contribution in the Workforce and the Economy. Here Its Chief Executive, Katy Chamberlain, Reflects on Two Decades of Unlocking Opportunities and Fulfilling Potential for Women


* UCH has changed in Wales over the 20 years since Dr Jill Venus' landmark report highlighted the barriers that limited the role of women in the Welsh workforce; barriers such as inflexible employment conditions, low aspirations and lack of affordable childcare.

Thankfully, some progress has been made in all of these areas since then. Women have become more visible in senior roles throughout the economy and in public life, and their influence has grown substantially. Much of this is documented in a special three-month exhibition we launched at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea on International Women's Day.

But, if we're honest, we need to recognise that there is still a long way to go before we can say that the Welsh economy is reaping the full benefits of women's talents, as it seeks to become more competitive in 21st century markets.

There have been symbolic breakthroughs in Wales during this period. Most noticeable has been the role of women in political life.

For example, in 2003 the National Assembly for Wales became the first legislature in the world containing equal numbers of male and female members. Moreover women have, typically, made up at least half the Welsh Government cabinet at any given time since devolution.

But perhaps the biggest breakthrough during this past 20 years has been the realisation by many employers that women's talents, at all levels, are essential to the success of their businesses and that failure to harness that potential will be a huge impediment to their progress.

Many have made changes to how they work, introducing flexible working practices and taking steps to ensure women have full access to training and development opportunities, recognising that existing talent pipeline systems don't always work well for women.

Sadly, those who have got to grips with this are probably still in a minority, and this presents a challenge for the Welsh economy and society. We remain in tough economic times, with women's unemployment on the increase, and it's important that we recognise not only that women's earning power is vitally important for our communities and our economic growth, but also that we can't address this from the status quo.

Fortunately, the businesses which have made positive changes to how they work provide some excellent examples of the competitive advantage these changes can bring - and female-owned businesses also act as role models, persuading women that they can achieve their own ambitions.

Lord Davies of Abersoch's report, Women on Boards, highlighted both the equality aspects and the commercial importance of having a diverse set of opinions and experience around the board table to support robust decision making.

The FTSE 350 is tasked with making this happen - and this will have an impact on the business world as a whole. The need to create a pipeline, the need for top organisations to compete for the best women (alongside their competition for the best men) will change our picture of how good businesses value and develop their employees, and what a good business looks like at the top.

Spreading this message throughout industry and across the wider economy is a major priority for the months and years ahead. It's a message that many competitor economies have already embraced, so it's essential Wales pays equal attention to this imperative.

Chwarae Teg (Welsh for "fair play") has acted as a catalyst for positive change in Wales during two momentous decades that have seen barriers to women's progress start to crack and crumble, as attitudes have changed and progressive legislation has been enacted on workforce practice.

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Still Some 'Hard Nuts to Crack' in Getting a Fairer Deal for Women; 2012 Marks 20 Years since the Creation in Wales of Chwarae Teg - a Unique Organisation Whose Specific Aim Is to Maximise Women's Contribution in the Workforce and the Economy. Here Its Chief Executive, Katy Chamberlain, Reflects on Two Decades of Unlocking Opportunities and Fulfilling Potential for Women
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