Report: “The Changing Role Of Women In the 21st Century” (26/11/2008 meetup)
Janette Faherty the CEO of Avanta spoke at our meeting in November on “The Changing Role Of Women In the 21st Century.” She has recently made another presentation tackling the same issue.
There are more women than ever before in the UK labour market. 20 years ago men held 2.5 million more jobs than women. Today the figure is even. 73% of women of working age are in work (84% for men). Over half of women with dependent children aged under 5 are working.
But – women still earn 18% less than men. At managerial level the gap is 12%. Only 5% of directors of top 200 UK companies are women, whilst a third of all managers are women. Even in vocational areas with high percentages of female staff such as further education – only 28% of college principals are women.
In the 20th century women fought for suffrage, for the right to work, for the right to choose! Whilst these battles characterised the 20th century, are we in danger of being complacent in the 21st century? Do women of the 20th century, of which I am clearly one, believe that they have succeeded in dancing on the glass ceiling? Clearly the statistics show otherwise. Inspirational women like Dr Eleanor Macdonald who founded Women In Management in 1969, fully expected the need for women-only support groups to have “withered away” by 2000. If only! When I started in the training business in 1983 I was the only woman Chief Executive. Of the top 15 UK training companies in the UK in 2008 – guess what – I am still the only woman CEO.
The needs of the 21st century workforce and its managers are clearly those of flexibility, planning, organising, team work, multi-tasking – all skills and attributes that come naturally to women. Women are still likely to be responsible for double-jobbing, i.e. balancing between home and work. Where does equality of opportunity start? To coin a 20th century phrase, the political is the personal. Equality starts and is surely learnt in the home, not just for our daughters but for our sons. Perhaps women should have a “take our sons to work day”!
Girls out-perform boys not only at school but in our colleges and universities and yet this also fails to translate into the proportion in higher management levels and leading roles in business and the professions.
In business there has been considerable growth in the number of women running their own businesses; 27% of all self employed people are women, 600,000 businesses are women-led. However out of the world’s 27 major economies, the UK is 23rd in the number of women entrepreneurs.
Women borrow less and repay a higher percentage than men. Ethnic women are two-and-a-half times more likely to start a business than their white counterparts. However women are less likely to believe they have the attributes to start/run their own business than men. They do not know any female role models. Organisations such as Prowess and LeicesHERday Trust provide great support, but we need more of this if women are to fulfil their potential and be able to make valid and appropriate choices.
The role of women in the 21st century must encompass improved opportunities in jobs, training and business. 20th century women must carry on the struggle to ensure this happens for our daughters and granddaughters.