Posted on 13/03/19

We deliberately didn’t post this on International Women’s Day.  That would make it appear to be something we only think about once a year, when it really isn’t.  Yes, women have come a long way from having to fight to get the right to vote just over 100 years ago, but in reality, there is still a lot more to be done in order for them to achieve true equality at work – and in many other arenas too. The Business Village has a large number of businesses that are run by women.  They work hard, enjoy successes and are excellent ambassadors for their companies and our business community. 

So, what’s the issue and why are we still talking about it? 

The fact remains that women are still massively under-represented at senior level in many companies.  In recent research by Cranfield University, it was demonstrated that in the FTSE 100 companies, only 9.7% of executive positions were held by women.  This statistic is often hidden behind lauding the progress made in achieving 30% of board members being women…  Women are also responsible for 34% of non-executive Director roles, which can also shield some of the problems that still exist.  Let’s be fair, yes, there has been progress, but even so, those figures are still pretty dismal. 

After considering representation, we also need to address the issue of the gender pay gap, which is still a significant problem – this is 2019 and yes, we still need to raise this as an issue and try to explain WHY it should be addressed.  Under UK law, companies with more than 250 employees must publish their gender pay gap data, both on their website and with the UK Government, where it can be interrogated by company, sector and size.  (Some companies with fewer than 250 employees also choose to report their data.) 

From this data we can see that for example, Yorkshire-based housebuilder Persimmon, (that banked record profits this year) reported that women have a mean hourly rate that is 15.1% lower than the men in the organisation, (this is an increase on the previous year’s figure of 14.1%).  AND when it came to bonus pay-outs, they report that women’s mean bonus pay is 62% lower than the men’s.  They weren’t the worst by far, but there are some surprising entries in the list of companies with the highest mean hourly rate difference.  HSBC has a difference of 61% and Virgin Atlantic is at 58.9%, whilst Barclays Bank has a difference of 49.3% between the mean hourly rate of men and women in the business.

Yes, the mean hourly rate is a crude measurement, as it takes into account the mean rate across all levels and grades of employee.  Of course, as women are more likely to be working in lower-paid roles, this obviously affects the data, but adds weight to another important issue.  Another study by PwC in 2018 showed that if the gender pay gap was closed in the UK, women would see an increase of £90 billion a year, or £6,300 each! 

According to the census, in the UK, the gender split is 51% women, 49% men; yet women are still under-represented in both business and leadership roles.  We all have a responsibility to be positive role models to the next generation of business leaders – both women and men – and this means positively encouraging our young people to aspire and achieve.  In Barnsley we have some brilliant young entrepreneurs coming through, thanks to schemes such as I Know I Can, which has seen some fantastic fledgling businesses soar to amazing heights.  The IKIC scheme set Horizon alumni Rose Dyson on her path to business success with Pura Cosmetics.  Rose has won numerous awards as a young entrepreneur and is an excellent example for what young people in our town, and beyond, can achieve. 

To answer the question about how we get more women to take the plunge and go into business themselves, or to aim high and achieve at senior and executive level, we need to show that there are no barriers.  As more women enter the upper echelons of business, we will see change occurring, but until then, men are very much obliged to get on board.  Nestle recently announced that it is implementing a plan to increase the number of women in senior executive positions, within its operations across the globe.  This is great news, as Nestle are ahead of the curve with 43% of managerial roles already being held by women.  They are committing to implementing the Gender Balance Acceleration Plan, which will see the percentage of women in the top 200 senior executive roles increase from the current 20% to 30% by 2022.

However, whilst the sad statistic remains that more people called David or Steve lead FTSE 100 companies than either women or ethnic minorities, the work we all do in helping women to shatter the glass ceiling is still essential.  Perhaps continuing to encourage more women entrepreneurs to take the plunge and join us at The Business Village is the best way forward…

This month’s guest blogger is Lyndsey Maw, Operations Manager at The Business Village.

Lyndsey Maw: Operations Manager at The Business Village