One year on from the publication of the Women and Work Commission’s report into closing the gender pay gap, its chair Baroness Margaret Prosser said she was “surprised” with the progress that had been made.
At a trade and industry sub-committee hearing last week on the commission’s Shaping a Fairer Future report, published in March 2006, Prosser was asked what she thought about the government’s action plan on her 40 recommendations.
“I was pleased that [the government] produced an action plan at all,” she replied. “I’m surprised so much has been done already. I’m certainly not unhappy with the pace.”
Prosser cited the Department of Trade and Industry’s £500,000 part-time work fund and the Exemplar Employers initiative as significant achievements.
“More than 100 companies have taken part in the Exemplar Employers scheme, and are trialling more women managers and providing better careers advice,” she said.
However, Prosser said she had some concerns that many schools still stereotyped women when it came to work experience and career guidance.
“The Department for Education and Skills accepted our recommendations on work experience, but I’m not sure how carefully [the department] is monitoring it,” she said.
Norma Jarboe, director of Opportunity Now, which oversees the Exemplar Employers programme, said: “Lots of government reports have not had that much impact and have simply been shelved, but the government has reacted well to this one.”
Jenny Watson, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said the gender pay gap remained a stubborn 17% for women working in full-time roles.
“We are glad the government is taking this forward and look forward to seeing the report,” she said.
But Prosser warned that the gender pay gap would remain a complicated and difficult issue to overcome.