Is the workplace setting a bad example to our daughters?

Mar 04 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Monday sees the start of Take Our Daughters to Work Week, but according to a leading think-tank, the reality for many female workers is still one of pay gaps, glass ceilings and being penalised for caring for families or other relatives.

Take Our Daughters to Work Week was launched a decade ago by Girlguiding UK to try to break down barriers to male dominated careers, such as engineering, mechanics and technology.

Yet, despite legislation and a greater number of women in the working population, research by the Work Foundation suggests that many still face wage inequality; stunted opportunities and career slow tracking.

According to its research, from the age of 20 women can expect to earn 19 per cent less than men, a situation unchanged for the past 10 years and which gets worse when a woman has a family.

Working women report also report being excluded from social networks, having limited role models and fewer opportunities for management positions, said the foundation.

They also experience the “glass cliff” syndrome – being more likely to be offered senior roles in failing companies, so setting them up for criticism.

They still bear the brunt of caring and housework, spending double the amount of time as men on household chores and losing out on pay, it suggested.

By taking time out to care for a family, many women also end up with reduced earning power and jobs in sectors with poor pension provision that lead to reduced economic independence.

The same pattern has also been documented on the other side of the Atlantic, where new research has found that professional women who put careers on hold for family or other reasons can expect to earn 18 per cent less if they return to the workforce.

What's more, many women has left the workforce altogether. Of the 1981 class at Stanford University, 57 per cent of women graduates have left the workforce while of three graduating classes from Harvard Business School, only 38 per cent of women are still in full-time careers.

In the UK, meanwhile, the Work Foundation said that women are more likely to be poor in old age than men; for every £1 a man received from a pension a woman received 32p.

Alexandra Jones, senior researcher at the foundation, said firms should be encouraging girls at an early age, carrying out equal pay audits and encouraging flexible working.

Women workers, in turn, should not be relying on networks for promotion and should be looking at their pension provision (as should employers).

“Take Your Daughter to Work Week is a wonderful opportunity to show young women how work works,” she said.

“But the problems of the pay gap, the pension gap and the flexible working stigma will not just disappear.

“The workplace needs to change or our daughters will face similar barriers to their mothers and the workforce will still be failing to maximise the productivity of a large part of the workforce,” she added.