Outdated work practices holding women back

Jo chairs the Lib Dem Campaign for Gender Balance, which aims to improve the representation of women at Westminster

Jo Swinson has called for more modern and flexible ways of working to encourage more women into positions of power and influence, as the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report, Sex and Power, finds a disproportionately low number of women in top jobs.

Although progress has been made in certain areas, for example, women’s representation among FTSE 100 chief executives, the Commission report indicates that progress has actually stalled or reversed in other areas. For example, there are now fewer women MPs in Parliament, where they make up just 19.3%, and at the current rate of progress it will take 200 years for women to be equally represented in Parliament.

Compared to previous year’s predictions it will now take 15 years longer (a total of 55 years) for women to achieve equal status at senior levels in the judiciary, and women directors in FTSE 100 companies could be waiting in the wings a further 8 years (a total of 73).

Jo, who chairs the Liberal Democrats’ Campaign for Gender Balance, said:

“As the Equality and Human Rights Commission has pointed out, there is still a glass ceiling preventing far too many talented women achieving their potential and securing top positions in both the public and private sector. Not only is this unfair, it is also bad for Britain – as a country, we cannot afford to neglect or marginalise some of the most talented people in our workforce.

“Too many workplaces still rely on outdated practices that prevent those who fail to fit into traditional work patterns from succeeding. Releasing the potential of all employees means introducing more modern and flexible working practices that can for example help women seeking to balance a family with a rewarding career.

“It is Liberal Democrat policy to extend the right to request flexible working to all. There is also the potential to make maternity and paternity leave more flexible, helping people balance work and family life.

“Through the work of the Campaign for Gender Balance, the Lib Dems are also committed to improving the representation of women in Parliament. Making the party more representative is one of the Liberal Democrat’s core priorities and this report will make us even more determined.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has likened women’s progress to a snail’s pace. A snail could crawl:

• nine times round the M25 in the 55 years it will take women to achieve equality in the senior judiciary.

• from Land’s End to John O’Groats and halfway back again in the 73 years it will take for equal numbers of women to become directors of FTSE 100 companies.

• the entire length of the Great Wall of China in 212 years, only slightly longer than the 200 years it will take for women to be equally represented in Parliament.

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