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Gender equality at work has barely improved in 10 years, report finds

13 Oct 2017 By Hayley Kirton

Experts warn young women won’t see real workplace equality before retirement

Body text of the news The UK’s gender equality at work has barely budged in 10 years, a recent report has found, sparking warnings that women could be waiting decades to see a real difference.

The Gender Equality Index 2017, which was published by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) earlier this week, also revealed that gender equality at work across the EU as a whole had improved little between 2005 and 2015. The report measured gender equality at work using several factors, including the proportion of women in full-time employment, the availability of flexible-working arrangements and career prospects.

“Employer action is important to address inequality of opportunity at work,” said Dr Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD. “This isn't just a moral and social issue. It’s also a business issue.”

Dr Carole Easton, chief executive of the Young Women’s Trust, added: “Discrimination, high childcare costs and gender stereotypes shut many women out of the workplace all together. Progress is proving slow; at this rate, today’s young women will be retired before equality in the workplace becomes a reality.”

But despite the gloomy conclusions, the UK did place fourth for gender equality at work out of all 28 EU member states, only being outranked by Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The report also found that, when taking into account a range of issues such as money, free time and power, the UK had made little progress on gender equality overall during the last 10 years and had fallen in the rankings from fourth place to sixth. And the UK’s gender equality for knowledge, which considers participation in education and training, was found to have declined over the 10-year period, although the country still ranked third overall.

Gender equality across the EU as a whole was also found to have progressed little between 2005 and 2015.

“We are moving forward at a snail’s pace,” said Virginija Langbakk, director of the EIGE. “We are still a long way off from reaching a gender-equal society and all countries in the European Union have room to improve.”

Meanwhile, the women and equalities minister told parliament yesterday that more could be done to improve the UK’s gender pay gap. Speaking in the House of Commons, Justine Greening said: “The gender pay gap is the lowest it has ever been, but we can do better. We have introduced mandatory gender pay gap reporting for the first time and large employers now have six months left to report their gender pay gaps.”

Since April, organisations with more than 250 staff have been required to publish details of their gender pay gap. However, only 128 employers out of an estimated 9,000 have published their figures so far.

Last month, Greening told the Financial Times Women At The Top summit that she would like businesses to “fast track” their plans to report their pay gaps.

“Gender pay gap reporting should create the transparency that should prompt further action by employers to examine where the structural and cultural barriers to gender equality in access to work and progression exist on their context,” said Miller. “We know the issues leading to underrepresentation of women differs between professions and levels of organisations.”

However, a study published by Mercer in August revealed that businesses might be being discouraged from revealing their pay gap because the rules are too complicated. Two out of five (41 per cent) of the 165 companies surveyed said they found the process complex, while 28 per cent said the rules were misleading.

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