The publication yesterday of a report looking at women’s contribution to the UK economy is a welcome addition to the large body of evidence that business needs more women – at all levels.
The Women Business Council’s report to Government found that if women participated in the workforce to the same degree as men, the UK could increase its GDP by 0.5% per year, with potential gains of 10% by 2030. Some 2.4m women not in work currently want to work.
Key recommendations include broadening girls’ aspirations and career choices by getting schools to partner with careers advisers, business and parents, and getting business to embrace the benefits of flexible working.
What is also needed are good role models, starting from the top in company boards to encourage women lower down the ‘pipeline’. But the UK’s high profile attempts to increase the number of women on boards aren’t working. As the latest Cranfield School of Management research shows, not only have the numbers of women on boards not increased but the rate has slowed. Cranfield believes it’s because firms have “become complacent about the issue”. So the European Commission’s proposal to increase female board representation to 40% is not only welcome but necessary.