The recession could irreparably damage the pipeline of female leadership in the UK, according to recent research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
The survey of more than 1,000 City professionals (91% of whom were female), which examined their initial impressions of the impact of the recession on women’s roles and careers, found that 73% believed redundancy would be an opportunity for those looking to leave the corporate world to make a new start. And 45% believed it would trigger a shift away from corporate careers towards smaller businesses and social enterprises instead.
The respondents – from the UK, Europe, North America and Australasia – were mainly from the banking, finance and professional services sectors.
Sarah Churchman, director of diversity at PwC, said: “The by-product of the recession could be to stall or reverse the sector’s gender diversity progress and investment, short-changing the UK economy’s recovery by removing or alienating a generation of female talent.
“Securing and maintaining the recruitment, retention and development of women in mid-management roles now is the only way a pipeline of women in senior executive roles can be maintained in the recovery.”
Sixty per cent of the respondents believed the recession would only serve to reinforce the glass ceiling for women in the workplace, while 50% believed cutbacks on learning and development budgets would hinder their prospects of progression in the long run. And one in three (36%) believed that women’s role as primary carer will have changed by the end of the recession, with 40% agreeing that it would lead to women becoming the main earners at home.
When asked to make one prediction about the world of work in three years’ time, 30% cited a return to presenteeism and a long-hours working culture as people sought to secure their jobs. Another 12% believed that corporate expectations of working hours would have changed. And 10% believed that uncertainty about financial and work issues will lead people to delay having a family.
Forty per cent of the respondents were uncertain about their job security and employment prospects in general over the next 12 to 18 months.