Introduction: The United Kingdom context
For more than 40 years, the number of women in the workforce in the United Kingdom (UK) has been steadily rising. Two-thirds of women aged 16–64 are working according to a 2016 Catalyst report. Representing 46 percent of the workforce, this is the largest number ever, up from 53 percent in 1971 (Catalyst, 2016). Despite this increase and 73 percent of the population agreeing that gender equality is good for the economy (Olchawski, 2016, 6), the gender pay gap remains, with women earning on average 20 percent less than men (Catalyst, 2016). A recent Fawcett Society report notes 56 percent of men and 68 percent of women ‘believe more needs to be done to achieve equality’ (Olchawski, 2016, 8). However, when considering their own interests, only 47 percent of respondents indicate they would benefit from gender equality. Asked about men in senior positions making room for women, ‘60% of people believe that men in top jobs won’t make room for women unless they have to’ (Olchawski, 2016, 9). Also worrying is the perspective of those responsible for recruitment. ‘A quarter of recruitment decision makers believe that a more equal society would not be better for the economy as compared to 9% not involved in recruitment decision making’ (Olchawski, 2016, 6).
Despite these concerns, it is important to acknowledge the progress made at the board level of FTSE 100 companies in successfully meeting the challenge set forth by the government in 2011 to increase...
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