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South: PwC research on career women

By Dan Teuton
14 March 2008

New research from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP shows progress is slow in fixing the leaking pipeline of future female talent in the FTSE 350, with levels at management and senior management still 20% below that of 2002. The research shows:

• A year-on-year reduction in pay at almost all management and executive director levels in FTSE 100 and FTSE 250;

• A resulting widening of the gap in some areas between male and female pay over a six year period, after sustained progress over the past few years towards closing the gap;

• A year on year increase in women in management and senior management positions in FTSE 350;

Despite an economic slowdown, companies need to be more active than ever in developing and progressing women, particularly those in middle and senior management roles across the FTSE 350. The impacts will be felt at both economic and a social level says Sarah Churchman, head of diversity and inclusion, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP:

“This is a business issue, not a women’s issue. Research shows that companies with the highest proportion of women in senior teams significantly outperformed those with the lowest. The Women and Work commission has also highlighted that the UK could gain £23billion or 2% of GDP by better harnessing women’s skills.

“Female management and senior management appointments in the FTSE 350 are the incubators for future global business female leaders. The continuing leaking pipeline of FTSE 350 future female leaders is costing the British economy dear in terms of knowledge, skills and their resulting economic contribution in the UK and internationally.

“Our research suggests that the loss of a senior manager level employee can cost up to three times the annual salary and benefit packages in terms of training time and knowledge investment.”

Could an economic slowdown provide a focus for women’s development and advancement, in a contracting job and skills market? The lack of availability of leadership skills was recently identified by UK CEOs as the biggest threat to UK growth in a recent global CEO Survey.

Confirming this view, PwC’s soon to be released update on the global trends in human capital suggests changes in the diversity make up of firms will be driven by a "pragmatic need to muster all the talent available to maintain a competitive and sustainable business.”

Sarah Churchman, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, added: “Even in an economic slowdown, the UK’s business growth ambitions and survival instincts could begin to drive an increase in the numbers and level of opportunities for women to join the workforce in interim and temporary roles.

“Global organisations facing both an economic slowdown and a talent shortage, are unlikely to achieve their long term growth ambitions if the leakage at middle management level is allowed to continue. If development of female leadership potential evolves in an unstructured manner then the leak cannot expect to fix itself.”

The leaking pipeline: where are our female leaders? poses fundamental questions for leaders and organisations, and sheds light on the various obstacles faced by women as they rise through the ranks of professional services firms. The report also provides recommendations on how to build gender diversity in order to increase the bottom line while still promoting the advancement of women in the workplace.

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