ImageIn recent years, there has been a tendency for people to assume that, because there has been so much positive progression in the UK since the days of suffrage, there is no longer a need to focus on supporting women in reaching their full career potential.

Women can have any job they want – surgeon, pilot, soldier, lawyer – nothing is off the table.

Women can have a career break to have children, receive maternity pay while they do so, and return to their job with full protection.

Women (and men) are protected within law from being discriminated against at work based on their gender (and age, pregnancy and maternity status, marital/civil partnership status, race, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation or gender reassignment).

So what’s the problem? Why the continued discussion of positive discrimination, enforced ratios of women in certain roles or at certain levels, etc.?

Well, to start with, although women can now enter as many fields as men, their average pay remains 19.7% lower than men’s average pay. I hope it goes without saying that until average salaries are not distinguishable based on gender, there is still work to be done.

Secondly, it is still the case that there are far fewer women in senior roles in most industries than there should be. As women make up approximately 50% of the population, they should make up around 50% of the work force at any given level, right?

Currently, the gender make up of far too many organisations in far too many sectors shows that the vast majority of the lower paid roles are women, and as you go up the organisation this ratio reverses until in the top tiers the vast majority are men. The so called “glass ceiling” is still well and truly in place, preventing many women from progressing as far as their equally qualified male colleagues.

For example, there are only a handful of female Chief Executives of local authorities in the UK and only 2 female Chief Executives of FTSE 100 companies. Across the 200 or so world states, there are just 12 female heads of state (excluding the world’s 3 female monarchs).

Unsurprisingly, then, I feel passionate that more should be done to encourage and support women to reach their full career potential. And it’s for this reason that Miller & Miller are working with the Wilderness Foundation UK to deliver a leadership development programme for young women. The programme aims to support participants not just in developing tangible leadership skills, but – just as crucially – in developing their expectations of themselves in the workplace. For this reason, there will be as much emphasis on coaching and mentoring the participants as there will be on delivering taught content.

We look forward to carrying out more programmes of this sort, working with more young women and other underrepresented groups within leadership. Let’s smash through that glass ceiling and see that the sky is truly the limit.

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