New Year drive to crack gender glass ceiling


The Government and trade unions are set to make a concerted effort next year to help women break through the glass ceiling and into the boardrooms of Britain's biggest companies, it has been reported.

The Daily Telegraph said a Government-backed commission is due to report on the “gender pay gap” in the summer, while the union Amicus is planning to campaign for compulsory “pay audits” of big businesses by outside consultants.

The news has also come as MPs on the Commons’ Trade and Industry Committee have launched an inquiry into why more women are winning big payouts in sex discrimination cases.

But John Cridland, deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry, told the newspaper that people should not get “hung up on discrimination by employers” when sometimes women chose to work in less well paid jobs for lifestyle reasons.

The MPs hope to start taking evidence in a series of public hearings in the spring, the first time in nine years that it has looked into the issue, The Daily Telegraph added.

The committee will look at the low numbers of women in the boardroom, as well as sex discrimination cases in the City.

Amicus, in turn, wants to make low pay among women a key campaigning issue in 2005, describing the pay gap between men and women as “disgraceful”.

This Government commission was set up in September to look at job segregation and pay discrimination.

It is expected to report back after the General Election, which is likely to be in May.

The news follows a spate of high profile sex discrimination cases in the City, most recently two that ended with very different conclusions.

On Wednesday, former Merrill Lynch banker Stephanie Villalba lost her £7.5 million case of gender discrimination against the US bank.

By contrast, former Oracle executive Karen Carlucci won almost £100,000 in compensation after exposing a sexist “boys’ club” culture at the firm.

She told the employment tribunal hearing her case that her former boss sent her a sexist e-mail and had an “inappropriate” calendar with naked women on his desk.

Oracle is to appeal against the decision.