Women step off the corporate ladder

Published at 11:52 AM on 08 March 2007

The number of female senior managers working in major UK businesses has taken a sharp fall of over 40% in the last five years, according to new figures from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. In 2002, some 38% of senior manager level posts in the FTSE 350 were occupied by women, but this has now sunk to just 22%. The news may come as a surprise to many companies that have introduced flexible working arrangements and appointed heads of diversity in an attempt address equal opportunities in the workplace and retain talent. At the most senior level, things are moving in the opposite direction but progress is painfully slow. The ranks of FTSE 350 female full-time chairmen or chief executives have grown, but can still be counted on one hand. One possible reason for this is the growing cost of childcare. The cost of a typical full-time nursery place in England has increased by 27% in the last 5 years according to the Daycare Trust, far out-stripping inflation. Those in top executive roles are likely to have a larger disposable income. They may be better able to meet the considerable financial commitments of flexible childcare needed to follow a high flying career and raise a family at the same time. There is also evidence that more women are going into business for themselves. The number of women self-employed females in the UK recently rose above a million for the first time according to the Labour Force Survey. The number of businesses that are wholly or predominantly owned by women has risen to 17% based on the latest DTI Small Business Survey. Sarah Churchman, head of diversity, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said: “At the top, things are moving slowly in the right direction but our middle management data paints a very different picture. Businesses tend to pay more attention to gender issues in senior positions and there appears to be an assumption that a supply from the middle ranks will eventually feed through. For big companies at least, this pipeline is shrinking at a worrying rate. “There has been progress on equal pay but it can be difficult to tackle the cultural and external financial issues that drive peoples’ behaviour and life-choices. Smart companies will monitor work force trends in this, and other, areas. It makes business sense to ensure talented people have opportunities to continue their careers as their circumstances and needs change throughout their working lives.” The report is based on figures from PricewaterhouseCoopers Monks pay database which records pay benchmarking information on over 10,000 UK management roles. It breaks down management into six levels of seniority. The departure of ‘senior manager’ females is mirrored for ‘heads of function’, the next level up. More detailed analysis of the FTSE 350 shows how the FTSE 250 has a similar proportion of women stepping off the corporate ladder (43%). However, the UK’s top companies are managing to attract and retain women at this level – 11% of ‘head of function’ positions in the FTSE 100 were held by women in 2002, and this has increased to 20% today. The findings also show which UK locations have the highest proportion of women in senior roles i.e. the top three levels. They are:
  • Central London - 7%
  • London - 6%
  • Glasgow - 6%
  • Bradford - 5%
  • Manchester - 4%
  • Edinburgh - 3%
  • Bristol - 2%
A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of over 1000 CEOs from over 50 countries found that only 47% UK business leaders agreed their company was as good at identifying, retaining and promoting female talent as male, compared to 64% of global CEOs. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of over 1000 CEOs from over 50 countries found that only 47% UK business leaders agreed their company was as good at identifying, retaining and promoting female talent as male, compared to 64% of global CEOs. ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. For PricewaterhouseCoopers Monks gender data for FTSE350 posts, see table attached. 2. PricewaterhouseCoopers Monks records pay data based on over 10,000 roles at six levels of management: Chief executive/chairman Deputy chief executive Board director Executive committee Head of function Senior manager 3. Figures from Daycare Trust Childcare Cost Survey 2006 – www.daycaretrust.org.uk 4. Labour Force Survey, Women’s Business Ownership report, www.sbs.gov.uk/SBS_Gov_files/researchandstats/WomensBusinessOwnershipMainReport.pdf 5. DTI annual Small Business Survey, www.sbs.gov.uk/sbsgov/action/detail?type=RESOURCES&itemId=7000027837 6. From April 2007 statutory maternity pay (SMP) will increase from 26 weeks pay to 39 weeks. From later in 2007, fathers will have the right to take up to 26 weeks leave and may also be entitled to additional statutory pay if the mother has not used all her entitlement to SMP. 7. For more information on women-owned businesses go to www.prowess.org.uk 

For more information contact:

Lydia Ruffles
Financial Services, PR Manager, PwC 
Tel:+44 (0)20 7212 1798 
Mobile:07966 319 780 

Sarah Churchman
Head of diversity, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP 
Tel:020 7212 3788 


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