We have a great story to tell about the opportunities at all levels in our industry. We are the largest private sector employer in the UK — we employ almost three million people and around sixty per cent are women.
However, in our industry as it is in many others, career progression to the top is not without its challenges. This is particularly true for aspiring female leaders. The latest analysis shows that roughly two-thirds of the women that we employ are low paid, only around fifteen per cent are in managerial roles and even fewer sit at executive level.
The reasons that we are still lacking female representation at the top level of our industry are complex and cross-cut many interrelated issues. There is, unfortunately, no silver bullet and making real progress is likely to require a combination of interventions jointly involving educators, businesses and government. This means that in the future we will need to continue to work closely with the Government across multiple fronts to ensure this happens.
Recent government initiatives have helped to move things in the right direction. The Davis Review has been effective in setting targets for the number of women in boardrooms as well as in pushing the issue up the agenda.
These signs are encouraging but progress is slow and still too few women are climbing the ladder to the top of their companies. We know from the findings of the review that forty-five per cent of FTSE 100 companies did not meet the minimum target of twenty-five per cent of women in boardrooms by 2015.
Simply put, more needs to be done to ensure that the next generation of female business leaders step forward and are able to move further up the career ladder. Alongside this, there needs to be clear key measures in place so that we can keep track of which interventions have been successful – and where they haven’t, what more can be done.
Our industry has a significant role to play in all this. We already have a strong track record of promoting good people quickly, regardless of their background and we are working hard to improve the opportunities open to women at all levels. But we need to make sure — by sponsoring and supporting women throughout their careers and by working with government — that the barriers that still exist at all levels are being tackled.