Men continue to take top jobs in public life

Head of the Supreme Court Baroness Hale - only 17% of Supreme Court Justices are women
Dinendra Haria/LNP/Shutterstock

Men continue to dominate positions of power in public life such as judges, FTSE 100 CEOs and national newspaper editors, according to the Fawcett Society.

Its 2020 Sex and Power Index reveals a “dismally slow pace of change” in top jobs in politics, the law, the civil service and public bodies.

Some of the statistics revealed by the index include:

  • The Supreme Court has just two women justices out of 12
  • Women only make up one in 20 CEOs of FTSE 100 companies (unchanged since its 2018 report)
  • Women make up 39% of secondary head teachers and 30% if university vice chancellors
  • Women make up 21% of national newspaper editors (four in this position overall)
  • Only 4% of Premier League football clubs are led by women
  • Just over a third (36%) of trade union secretaries are women, and 27% of charity CEOs.

In political life, just over a third (34%) of MPs are now women, a small increase of 2% after the last election. The percentage of women in the House of Lords is 27%. Approximately a third of permanent secretaries in the civil service are women.

Women of colour are even scarcer in top roles – there are no women of colour in top civil service jobs; none in the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales or the Northern Ireland Assembly; and no women of colour in FTSE 100 CEO roles.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society said: “Despite much lip service about the importance of having women in top jobs, today’s data shows we are still generations away from achieving anything close to equality. We are wasting women’s talent and skills.

“If we want change, we have to make it happen. That means quotas, targets and policy interventions to remove the barriers to women’s progression.”

Smethers called for a number of interventions to help move the dial, including reducing the threshold for gender pay gap reporting to companies with 100 employees or more, and time-limited quotas in public bodies and the boards of large corporate organisations.

The Fawcett Society has also launched a new project with race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust – the Pay and Progression of Women of Colour project.

The project will seek to understand the inequalities and intersecting barriers faced women of colour, and the solutions they think will help them to overcome them.

Runnymede Trust deputy director, Dr Zubaida Haque, said that it was “astonishing” to think there had never been a non-white Supreme Court judge, or a permanent secretary who was a woman of colour, despite the fact that one in six people in the UK are black or ethnic minority.

She said: “There have been positive steps and achievements towards gender equality in some key areas of public life, but we cannot assume that generic gender initiatives and targets will also address racial discrimination issues for women of colour.

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