HR Policy (or lack of) still cripples Top Management Gender diversity!


  • Unfair treatment of employees returning from maternity leave
  • Inflexible working hours not allowing for child-minding responsibilities
  • Unequal pay and bonuses for equal work performance across genders

These age old sex discrimination issues and more are still not being dealt with by HR policies. This is crippling UK businesses in their ability to feed high achieving female employees up the management pipe-line, leading to poor gender diversity in the top management positions.

Studies show that gender diversity in top management and board positions is good for business (i.e. McKinsey 2007: Women Matter) and also, probably not so surprisingly that men and women generally have complementary management qualities (i.e. Talent Innovations 2012). This combination of information makes it crucial for companies to ensure their top management includes a good split between males and females.

However, many top UK companies are not setting a good example for our smaller and younger businesses. Many are still working with the attitude of ‘more of the same’ and continuing the traditions of the ‘male, pale and stale’ for boardrooms and top management alike. On FTSE 100 and 250 boards, only 15% and 9% of seats respectively are held by women, and 11% and 45% of these companies have all male boards! (Women on Boards Report 2012) We are a long way from an equal split of 50% males and females on boards and also still a long way behind the leaders in gender equality at board level, Norway, at over 40% females on boards!

Six in ten university graduates are female in the UK and females are faring better on grades than males. Almost 50% of the UK workforce is female (ONS report 2012) yet the talent being shown at University level is being lost on the way to top management through poor HR or lack of HR policy to tackle the age old discrimination issues.

The largest gender pay gap shown in the ONS figures is occurring after the 30’s, after which age progression to top level management for the best and brightest has usually begun. Are HR Policies attempting to ensure that females can still progress their careers when they need time out to have a baby, or flexible hours to take responsibility caring for a child? Or are companies allowing females to be side lined who ‘choose’ to have a child?

The fact that 80% of part-time workers are female and that the median hourly pay for part-time work is almost 40% lower than that for full-time work (ONS 2012 Hourly-earnings) may put forward the possible conclusion that

  • companies are still not being as flexible as they need to be for females to continue with full-time work alongside family obligations
  • females are being forced into lower paid part-time arrangements for the sake of being better family makers
  •  companies are losing out on female talents and skills!

Check out our fact sheets for more information on why gender diversity in top management is important and how HR policy can help to break down the barriers to female career progression.

Are your HR policies ready for the Olympics?

Question: The start of the 2012 Olympics is approaching fast! Is your business ready? Answers: a. We’re not based in the centre of London! b. Nothing positive to gain? c. Still plenty of time! d. We can deal with anything as it arises? e. No some summer London 2012 event dates are shown here, click to go to Olympics competition dates

If you are answering a-e from the answers on the right, or are unsure whether ‘this Olympics thing’ is really important to your business – please read on.

Most of the Olympic activity will be within the school summer holidays when managing employee holiday time and the resultant skeleton staff is usually difficult enough. Now add the impact of 10.8million tickets being sold for Olympics and Paralympics spectators and 70,000 volunteers giving ten days each to help run the Games. Don’t forget the combination of other summer events; see right for just a sample, also drawing thousands away from work. Are your HR policies ready to handle the increase in holiday requests?

Head of culture and sports group at Kent County Council, Chris Hespe said, “This is the greatest show on earth – it’s the equivalent of having a G20 summit, two FA cups and a Wimbledon every day for two weeks in London”. Although maybe a slight exaggeration by Hespe; this is definitely an event that many of your employees won’t want to miss, even if just by catching some of the TV/Internet coverage. Are your HR policies ready to provide flexible working hours to enable watching of the Games with minimal interruption to your business?

While most of the festivities are to be held across London (see affected areas), there will be a wide range of events all across the UK including ‘Live sites’. The Torch Relay preceding the opening ceremony comes within 10miles of 95% of people in the UK*. Events and cultural celebrations, large and small, are being held all along the relay route so it would not be surprising if many of your employees are involved in the celebrations at some point (Torch route information) . Such events can lead to a splurge in unauthorised absence, not only from employees forgetting to book off holiday in time, but also from post celebration malaise. Are your HR policies ready for an increase in pressure from unauthorised absence?

Heavy traffic can be expected around events including those not in the capital, and knock-on effects can be expected on alternative routes from vehicles trying to avoid the worst of it. This traffic may have a considerable effect on staff punctuality. Have expectations/alternatives been communicated with affected staff to reduce the impact on your business?

Acas Chief Executive John Taylor said: “We’re finally on the home straight to the 2012 Olympics and employers should have plans for managing employees’ involvement whether volunteering or those watching the events.” Read our factsheet to help you check that your business HR policies are ready!

*UK, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey