Analysis by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has found that fewer than half (41%) of management roles in the UK workplace are held by women.
The figure falls to 38% when examining the number of women in senior business leading positions. This is despite the fact that women make up nearly half (48%) of the UK working population. This analysis of the Labour Force Survey sits alongside wider CMI polling for International Women’s Day (IWD) on gender in the workplace. This year’s IWD calls on organisations to ‘stop the bias’ and commit to improving gender parity.
CMI’s poll also found gender inequality was still more of an issue around decision making, with:
- Only 61% of respondents saying managers or senior leaders ensured that women and men received an equal voice in meetings and decision making – a most basic 21st century workplace expectation.
- Only 49% said they have managers or senior leaders actively and visibly championing gender equality initiatives.
Support from employers for effective practical action remains low
Organisation-led support for women to progress in the workplace is also low, with only 34% of respondents reporting that they have mentoring and sponsorship programmes in their place of work that champion the progression of women.
Furthermore, only 1 in 5 (22%) of managers said that managers or senior leaders proactively seek out and advocate women for key projects, roles and promotions, and this dips to just 14% for female respondents compared to 27% for male respondents.
However, regarding flexible working arrangements, 89% of managers told CMI that their organisation now offers flexible arrangements, compared to 58% before the Covid pandemic.
The uptake of hybrid working is seen as important due to its potential to improve workplace representation for women and help close gender pay gaps. For example, 74% of mothers of 0-3 year olds were in the workforce in 2021 compared to 68% in 2019 according to a Resolution Foundation report. This is likely to be because of the increased availability of flexible and remote working, especially in more female-dominated industries.
Ann Francke, Chief Executive of CMI, commented:
“As we mark International Women’s Day this year these findings make for uncomfortable reading. We hear a lot from employers about the important, valuable role of women in the workplace. And though there is a lot of great work and progress, overall the figures don’t support the rhetoric.
“Our research shows a very real gap between perception and reality. There is no reason why, in this day and age, women should be any differently represented in management and senior workplace positions compared to their male colleagues. Organisations need to take a real hard look at how they support their female employees and what they actually have in place to help them with career development and success.
“I’d hoped that our findings would tell a very different story. Unfortunately it seems the move to male-female parity, particularly in senior roles, in the workplace remains something of a slow process and we’re well behind where we should have been by IWD 2022.”
A call to make things better
Today the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is calling on the Government and employers to take a number of concrete steps to tackle the continuing underrepresentation and gender divide within the UK workplace:
- Commit to an impact assessment of how women’s position in the workplace has been affected by the pandemic and implement recommended actions that come out of this assessment.
- Make action plans a requirement as part of reporting and bring medium-sized firms into scope. That’s at least another 35,000 private sector companies providing 3.5 million jobs.
- To champion gender balanced workplace practice through a commitment to good management and leadership through the development of comprehensive Equity, Diversity and Inclusion plans.
Furthermore, the CMI is urging employers to:
- Ensure company-wide training to embed inclusive practice and an awareness of equity and its importance.
- Utilise proactive action to ensure women are equitably represented on shortlists for recruitment and promotion.
- Provide two-way workplace flexibility that takes account of employees and not only business or organisation needs.