From education to employment

University of Birmingham Business School research demonstrates the continuing need for International Womens Day

students sat at computers

International Women’s Day has been with us for more than a century now. When activists started the tradition of marking women’s oppression on March 8th, women were still unable to vote; in many workplaces, including the Civil Service, women were required to resign from their post on marriage.

Clearly, there has been progress – the proportion of women on the boards of the UK’s 350 largest companies has just nudged over 40%, and we now have the highest proportion of female MPs at around 35%

Yet our research at the University of Birmingham Business School still shows considerable barriers, significant inequalities, and areas where women’s full participation in workplaces is resisted. At the moment we focus on three areas: the intersection of paid and unpaid work, career patterns, and leadership, and we are committed to utilising our research to help change workplaces for the better.

Our Equal Parenting Project recently published its latest annual report examining managers attitudes to flexible working. We found that while 77.7% of managers believed that caring responsibilities should be shared equally between parents, only 40.4% said their organisations offer support for parents to do this, forcing women to take on much of the unpaid domestic work.

We are determined to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. That is why, in addition to our ongoing research on menopause discrimination, we are the first Business School in the UK to sign the Menopause Workplace Pledge and host regular menopause cafes for members of our University community. Our Chancellor, Lord Bilimoria, has been a long-term supporter of the pledge. Under his presidency in 2021, the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI), which represents 190,000 businesses in UK, signed up to the pledge and encouraged others to do so.  We are grateful to have support from senior leadership across the University to deliver a more welcoming working environment for women.

Women make up nearly half of the UK workforce, but many feel forced to reduce their hours at work, pass up promotions and even quit their jobs due to lack of menopause support. We were delighted to see this recognised by the Labour Party recently, with the announcement of a menopause action plan that would require large companies to show how they are supporting employees who are experiencing menopausal symptoms.

The School is hosting a number of events to mark International Womens Day 2023 including discussions on stereotypes and barriers to women in leadership, and we look forward to continuing to champion women in our research and our working practices 365 days a year.

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