‘Women still face inequality in workplace’

Jane Tomlinson was made a Freeman of Leeds in 2005

Jane Tomlinson was made a Freeman of Leeds in 2005

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Almost three-quarters of employees in the region believe a ‘glass ceiling’ culture is still thwarting women from fulfilling their career potential, new research finds.

As Yorkshire Post readers responded to calls to nominate inspiring women for recognition to mark International Women’s Day, more than a third of women claimed to have experienced barriers to advancing their careers. Of those who took part in the study, 73 per cent of employees in Yorkshire, of both genders, said they perceive there to be a glass ceiling for women - the highest proportion of workers across all regions of the UK.

Thirty-five per cent of people also said they believed male colleagues at the same level of seniority earn more than them.

Estelle James, director of recruiter Robert Half UK which commissioned the study, said: “While business leaders are taking steps to level the playing field between men and women in the workplace, our research shows that these inroads are not being felt by the employees themselves. Businesses need to eradicate the ‘old boys club’ mentality and allocate adequate resources to ensure that the glass ceiling becomes the glass elevator. Offering the right career pathing and development opportunities coupled with more flexible working options will result in a larger pool of women ready to take their rightful seat at the boardroom table.

“We’ve had 110 years celebrating International Women’s Day, yet there is more work to be done. It’s about the skills one brings to the workplace, not their gender.”

Discrimination law specialist Elizabeth George said the Government has a role to play, the rhetoric around its ‘war on red-tape’ had to stop. The Government should embrace regulation which safeguards against sex discrimination in the workplace instead, she said.

“Through the reduction of regulation and greater limits on workers rights, many companies are missing out on the brightest and the best because of ingrained prejudice at a managerial level which blights their business and the careers of those women within it.”

But concerns that women are unfairly blocked from progressing their careers are not universally accepted. Another study suggests that 47 per cent of HR directors believe that women are advancing their careers on par with men and Sandy Needham, chief executive of the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said she no longer sees much evidence of a glass ceiling.

“I think if women obtain the right qualifications for their chosen career, seize opportunities that come up and avoid being shy about saying what they are good at, then there are jobs open to them.

“There are issues about working at a senior level in any organisation, for example having to work longer than the average day and attending meetings out of normal office hours. For women who have children or other family commitments, that makes it hard to have a good work/life balance. I have friends who have left great jobs to run a much smaller business of their own in order to keep control of that balance.

“Some recent research in Yorkshire showed that many Boards would like to appoint more women, so the door seems to be being opened more.

“If employees believe that there is a problem then it is probably because of what they experience at work. In my own organisation, the management team is 50:50 male/female and I think that sends the message that we appoint on merit and try to offer the flexibility that would allow the best candidate to progress.

“In the media profiles tend to be only of women running major businesses, where women are still in the minority, if we showcased more women who have set up and run their own companies, I think perceptions would change.”

Readers’ inspiration

The late, great charity fundraiser Jane Tomlinson and Gold medal Olympic boxer Nicola Adams were singled out as inspirations by readers to mark International Women’s Day.

Bradford midwife Jacky Pickles, who has bravely battled terminal illness since 2000. She is a “remarkable, inspirational and selfless lady”, colleague Shirley Rainford said.

Wakefield Council employee Helen Grantham said the Council’s chief executive Joanne Roney deserved praise for being “a very visible advocate for women, especially in the workplace”.

Readers also said Leeds woman, Nina Joy, inspires them with her blog about living with being diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2012.

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