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Women's unrealised potential costing £23 billion

Despite high-profile campaigns tackling female inclusion and the gender pay gap, progress is worryingly slow

Women not reaching their full potential is costing the UK economy an estimated £23 billion, according to a report from membership organisation Everywoman.

Retaining and Advancing Women in Business: A model for success reveals that despite high-profile campaigns tackling female inclusion and the gender pay gap progress is worryingly slow, with 36% of British businesses having no women in senior management roles.

The research discovered a significant financial impact of gender parity at board level in terms of return on equity (41%) and operating results (56%). The study also measured the hidden cost of female manager turnover – estimated at £780,000 for a business employing 300 to 400 managers

The importance of training opportunities was also examined, with 81% of women who regularly use learning and development resources reporting this has enabled them to develop their careers. The impact of inadequate training was large, with 62% of leavers citing it as a reason for moving on.

Everywoman co-founder Karen Gill called on business leaders to act on this information. “This research shows that when women have access to role models and learning opportunities they develop faster and further along the talent pipeline,” she said. “It confirms that it is possible to show a return on investment for committing to engaging, retaining and advancing female employees.

“This report speaks to business leaders, HR professionals, learning and development specialists and diversity and inclusion champions, demonstrating the necessity to build a solid business case for gender diversity within their organisations and reap the rewards that gender parity offers.”

Sharon Murray, head of culture and inclusion for Virgin Media, highlighted the effectiveness of a network to help women. “Our investment in this group of 400 women in the past 12 months has started to show some real results – not least in our most recent company engagement survey, where the levels of engagement of our Everywoman cohort have increased from 61% to 67% – now higher than their male counterparts,” she said. “Giving them this opportunity to access role models and a variety of learning and development material is working.”