The barriers to women’s career progression are back in the news with the publication of a report by the Women’s Business Council (WBC), looking at ways of maximising women's contribution to economic growth and assessing priorities in removing the barriers that women face in playing a full part in business and the workplace. But does it say anything new and interesting for women returners? And will anything change as a result?
The headline of the report is that there are 2.4 million women who are not working and who want to work. So this is a report seems to be about women returners, the first time this topic has been approached so comprehensively. It probably helps that Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE, the Chair of the WBC herself took an 18 month career break and is now CEO of a FTSE-250 company.
As you might expect, the report addresses barriers to our careers from start to finish. It breaks its recommendations down into four areas: broadening girls’ aspirations at school (Starting Out); flexible working and other support for working parents (Getting On); women in the ‘third part’ of their working lives (Staying On); and female entrepreneurship (Enterprise).
Two aspects are new and of note:
· The needs of women wishing to return to work after a break are highlighted, along with support for parents who continue to work;
· It is significant, I think, that there is not yet a recognised term for the ‘third part’ of our lives: it is a symptom of how invisible older women can feel.
So the WBC must be applauded for bringing these dimensions into public debate and to the attention of the Government.
Will anything change?
It is hard to see how in these difficult economic times, the Government will do more than it is already. Indeed its response to the report does little more than reiterate the actions it has already taken. What the Government does promise, however, is to:
· Lead by example in incorporating the WBC’s message and approach in flexible working, as a major employer;
· Appoint a business champion for older workers and to work with existing bodies to develop new approaches for this group;
· Provide better web-based support for women entrepreneurs and tackle the belief that they are less likely to obtain banking finance than men
For its part, the WBC will meet every six months to monitor progress and will report in one year on what has been achieved.
So, while the Government and business will be looking anew at women’s careers and how to support them, the focus is mostly on continuing to do what they are already doing for working women. I fear It might, therefore, take some time for the effects to trickle out into the world of women returners.
What do you think of the WBC’s report and the Government’s response? What measures do you think would make a difference to you returning to work?
Posted by Katerina
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