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Annie Hayes

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Women struggle to make it to the top

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Sex and power: who runs Britain? 2005 published by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) argues that a need for a total overhaul of family policies is essential if Britain is to stop losing out on women’s talent.

The EOC say that improvements to date don’t go far enough. The body has called on the government and political parties to develop a national family strategy.

Jenny Watson, Deputy Chair of the EOC said:

“There are plenty of talented women in business, politics and other areas of public life. Women now make up over half the workforce and the proportion is growing. Yet our decision makers remain overwhelmingly male. We can no longer assume that it’s only a matter of time before more women make it to the top.

“Without addressing women’s responsibilities at home as well as at work, we’ll continue to lose out on women’s talent – and ignoring the potential contribution that women can make will cost Britain dear in terms of productivity.”

Alarmingly, the report uncovers that women who choose to take time out to have children are being penalised.

According to the EOC, around 20% of women face dismissal or financial loss as a result of a pregnancy. One third of women mothers, more than one in ten fathers and nearly one in five people with another unpaid caring role have given up or turned down a job because of their caring responsibilities.

The report also reveals that Britain is falling behind the rest of Europe in getting women representatives into politics.

The UK comes 14th out of the EU member states for female representation in its national parliament. While 45% of Sweden’s parliament is made up of women in the UK the figure is just 18% and 52% of Sweden’s Cabinet members are female but here, just 27%.

In a ray of light, however, the EOC said that more and more employers are recognising the need to provide employment flexibility and judge staff on what they achieve, not on the hours that they work.

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Annie Hayes

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