Women on boards target not ambitious enough

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The chair of the EHRC has called on the government to go further in new Hampton-Alexander review targets

Targets set by government to increase the representation of women on FTSE company boards do not go far enough, according to the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) David Isaac.

The Hampton-Alexander review aims to achieve 33% representation of women on boards by 2020 across the FTSE 350, but Isaac described the target as displaying a “paucity of ambition".

“It is very worrying to see that progress has stalled and hit a five-year low,” he said. “While we welcome this new review to continue progress, the current targets show a paucity of ambition and don't go anywhere near far enough. We desperately need to see new energy and drive to make further progress.”

The EHRC’s recommendations for the government include:

  • Part-time pay gaps: A requirement to publish pay gaps that compare the pay of women working part-time with men in full-time roles. There is currently a gap of 38.2% in median hourly earning when comparing part-time women with full-time men.
  • Pay gaps by starting salary: Employers should be required to publish the difference between men and women’s starting salaries. The Commission’s research shows average graduate salaries are higher for men than women, even where their degree is similar. Business’ decisions on pay at recruitment may create pay gaps that extend throughout an employee’s career.
  • Making flexible work and career paths the norm: Employers should offer all jobs flexibly unless there is a reasonable justification not to. Currently employees have to wait six months before they can request to work flexibly. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s research shows that organisations usually approve these requests, but women then experience negative impacts. The Commission will call on the government to develop proposals to encourage employers to offer different forms of flexible working from the start of an employment contract, and allow new staff the right to request flexible working as soon as they start.
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