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Getting more women into work could bring the UK £170BN of economic benefits.

Posted by: Megan Troster

Margaret Thatcher once declared: “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man; if you want anything done, ask a woman.”

In more than 150 years we have seen our society significantly transformed. Legislative, cultural and societal changes driven by brave women pioneers such as the suffragettes in 1866 have made the UK a dramatically more equal place for women. Yet this change is still on going and the battle of the sexes in the work place has been inevitable and unavoidable.

Statistics and surveys confirm that women are on the rise in the work place in the UK and all over the world. Over the past 40 years there has been a noticeable rise in the percentage of women aged 16 to 64 in employment and in turn, a fall in the percentage of men. In April to June 2013 around 67% of women aged 16 to 64 were in work, an increase from 53% in 1971. For men the percentage fell to 76% in 2013 from 92% in 1971. (Source: Office for National Statistics).
PwC’s annual Woman in Work Research shows that the UK could boost its GDP by 9% (£170bn) if it increases the number of women in work. The same Index shows that among the 33 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the UK has made significant gains this year, jumping from 21st to 16th position, while Sweden remains the highest performing country.


According to the global management consulting firm McKinsey, companies across all sectors with the most women on their boards of directors significantly and consistently outperform those with no female representation; this is by 41% in terms of return on equity and by 56% in terms of operating results.

But are women better bosses, and is the rise in women in the work place a real step forward for business?

The answer is...yes, and that’s not just because it’s a woman talking here, but because many studies and universities concluded that women are far better at handling the job stress than men and moreover female brains have shown to possess more multitasking abilities than their male counterparts.
As a consequence, a mounting number of businesses have been adopting initiatives to improve and grow their female talent base, particularly at the leadership level. However, the majority of senior level management positions are still mostly occupied by men.

The government set a target of a minimum of 25% female representation on the 100 boards in the FTSE by the end of 2015, the figure achieved was 23.5%. However this is almost double the figures for women positions on the FTSE 100 in 2011 which sat at only 12.5%. Further, heavy weights in the business world are beginning to makes changes such as The Institute of Directors, which appointed its first woman Chair in its 112 year history. Barbara Judge joined in May 2015, to chair the Pension Protection Fund and is the UK Ambassador on behalf of UK Trade and Investment. So it seems we still have a long way to go to total equal representation of women in business, but the trends are beginning to move in the right direction.



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