UK plc driving out talented women

Aug 12 2009 by Barry Wade Print This Article

The modern workplace demands firms preface every action with a simple question: "Is this sustainable?" It could be about communicating redundancies through text message or choosing Hummers as the fleet of choice for your sales staff. Companies not asking this question, however, will struggle to establish themselves in the new normal environment.

Let's put it to the test. A pay gap between men and women at 22.6% and rising, part-time job options for new mothers that call on degree educated workers to take on school-leaver tasks, and a stubborn lack of meaningful flexibility across many workplaces.

Is this a sustainable approach to business? The latest UK employment statistics released today can offer some guidance.

UK plc is hemorrhaging talented, entrepreneurial women at a time it needs them most. While the talent shortage remains stubbornly with us, companies' unwillingness to engage with the changing business landscape around us is acting as a catalyst for women to go it alone on a part-time self-employed basis.

Today's figures show that between April and June this year there was a 33,000 year-on-year rise in the number of women registering as self-employed. The total is now 561,000. In 2007 the figure was 518,000.

In two years 43,000 more women have registered as part-time self-employed. At the same time the number of women in part-time employment has fallen by 22,000 at a time when the number of men in part-time employed positions has mushroomed by 130,000.

OK, you can blame the recession for some of movement but let's face it, business is shooting itself in the foot. Countless surveys, research reports, personal experience stories, and even Harriet Harman soundbites continue to show how the workplace is not addressing the needs of many women.

The personal attributes needed to start up on your own in a downturn are exactly the skills and behaviours businesses need. But instead of retaining that expertise they are losing it through neglect and a lack of authentic engagement.

Isn't it time UK plc started asking itself: "Is this sustainable?"