Gender gap endures

It will take 65 years to achieve boardroom equality between the sexes, 200 years to have equal numbers of male and female MPs, and 20 years to close the full time pay gap between men and women. Such are the arresting findings of the Equal Opportunities Commission's swan-song report, published today.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

‘The reality of far too many men's and women's lives is out of step with their aspirations,' said EOC chair Jenny Watson. ‘We are living in the midst of an unfinished social revolution.' Without active intervention by the private and public sector, the gender gap will take generations to close - if ever.

The 32-year-old EOC, which is to be subsumed within the Commission for Equality and Human Rights in October, advocates a five-point programme to deliver equality within the next decade that includes providing better support to families, modernising public services and greater efforts to close the pay gap. But ramping up the rate of change will require a huge collaborative effort that to many, seems unrealistic.

Yet enlightened businesses, frightened by the so-called war for talent, are doing their best to keep their women. But though laudable, the efforts of a few are just a handful of drops in an ocean of inequality. Most career women are forced to trade down in terms of job if they want to work flexibly to look after their children. It seems that high-status part-time work just doesn't exist. It doesn't help that men aren't encouraged to take a bigger role in the raising of their children either.

Yet there are some positive changes too. The UK has come along way since 1975, and in the vanguard are this country's female entrepreneurs, the numbers of whom are growing at a rate of knots. According to the DTi, ten times more women (21%) than men cite family commitments as a reason for starting a business. They are also on average, more qualified than men. This is good news - but something that corporates should be worried about. The more female talent that leaches through their walls, the more that is lost to big business - and that isn't good for either their bottom lines or their boardrooms.

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