Women on a mission is good for business

The
Women at Work Commission is a welcome initiative if it helps HR convince
business leaders about inequalities in the workplace (see page 1).

The
architect of it is likely to be persuasive Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state
for trade and industry and the minister for women. Hewitt continues to be a
great role model for an HR profession dominated by women. The mother of two has
relentlessly championed fairness issues with flexible working legislation and
has instigated an investigation into pregnancy and maternity practice. She’s on
a mission to seriously make a difference.

This
latest move is a sign that the Government is clearly dissatisfied with the pace
of change by a male dominated business culture. While there are pockets of
excellence, too many employers are reluctant to challenge the status quo and
dismantle the barriers to women’s progress. Many industry chiefs hide behind
tired, old corporate structures and established practices, which HR should be
challenging with rigour. Equality of pay, promotional opportunities and
harassment issues all need addressing. 

The
current culture of secrecy over salaries stops women from closing the gap and,
at this rate, it could take over 80 years before we see any significant shift
towards fairness on pay. Women are still massively under represented in
positions of influence, making up only 9 per cent of top business leaders. It’s
undemocratic, a waste of talent, creates an imbalance in everything we do and
certainly can’t be good for business.

Few
employers will want more legislation to emerge from this new commission, but
then the onus is on them to be more proactive. This commission gives HR the
ammunition and confidence it needs to get these messages across in the
boardroom right now.

By
Jane King, editor

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