Realising women's potential in the workplace

The Women's Business Council is investigating how to best support women to reach their full potential in the workplace and in running their own businesses.

Women are an under-utilised economic resource. Girls outperform boys at GCSEs and A-Levels and more young women than men graduate from University. Yet women are often under-employed in the workforce, taking lower paid, part-time work to allow then to balance working with their caring responsibilities. The gender pay gap, although falling, remains stubbornly high: the average woman employee earns 19.7% less than the average man. 

Many women want the opportunity to work. There are almost two-and-a-half million women not in work who want to and a million women who want to work longer hours. In these challenging financial times, we need to ensure we are fully utilising the talents, skills and experience of the whole population to underpin economic growth.

Increasing opportunities for women in the workplace enables many women to maximise their educational qualifications and their skills and talents, helping them to meet their career potential and increase the economic well-being of themselves and their families.   

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Increasing women’s participation in the workplace would add 10.3% to the size of the economy and provide those women who are keen to utilise their skills and increase their economic independence, the opportunity to play a full role in the economic life of the nation.  But capitalising on women’s economic potential is not just about the workplace, it’s about enterprise too. Women-led SMEs already add around £50 billion to the economy, but women are still half as likely as men to start a business.

Business benefits

Getting the best from the female workforce doesn’t just make sound economic sense; it is also good for business performance. Business needs to attract and retain the best personnel. Greater diversity in the workforce can improve creativity, problem solving and greater flexibility to react to environmental changes. Greater diversity in senior management can help bring different perspectives and voices to the table. 

That is why the Minister for Women and Equalities has asked some of the most successful people from the business world to provide independent advice to government on where they can provide more support to women in the workplace and in business.  Chaired by Ruby MacGregor-Smith CBE, CEO of Mitie, the Women’s Business Council takes its members from variety of sectors all with proven commercial success and a strong commitment to diversity. They all want to see real change to bring about real improvements for those women who are keen to be economically active. 

The Women’s Business Council is looking at all aspects of women’s working lives from the career choices that girls and young women make, through to getting on in a career, to staying on in the workplace, reskilling and juggling caring responsibilities and providing support for starting up a business. 

The Council is coming to the end of its year’s work and will make recommendations for business and government in early summer this year. We will be asking for your views shortly with and will keep you posted on the recommendations. But in the meantime, you can find out more about the Women’s Business Council here.

*This article was contributed by The Women's Business Council.

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