Raising the Glass Ceiling: An assessment of women in the workplace

Posted on the 14th November 2014 by Max, Summit Coordinator

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Raising the Glass Ceiling: A look back at Lisa Buckingham from WES 2014

Lisa Buckingham at WES 2014

Women in business

The issue of women’s rights continues to retain its place at the forefront of modern consciousness, from the highest echelons of intellectual debate at the UN to social media shares of Elle magazine’s feminist t-shirt campaign.

Lisa Buckingham, former Editor of the Financial Mail, tackled this ever-present debate at Warwick Economics Summit last year in her speech ‘Breaking the Mould: Women In Leadership’, which addressed gender inequality in the business environment. She argued that ideas of seniority and authority, and thus the business boardroom itself, still have a masculine face.

In 2011, Lord Davies reviewed the issue of women on boards in the UK, and challenged Britain’s FTSE 100 firms to have a 25% female presence in their boardrooms by 2015. However, it was revealed in October this year that 60% of these companies have so far failed to reach the target, including oil giant BP, and Reckitt Benckiser, the firm behind brands such as Dettol and Vanish. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, a former speaker at the Warwick Economics Summit, advised these companies to take ‘firm action now to increase female representation’.

Equality in the workplace

As students, we are not necessarily acutely aware of the pervading presence of inequality in the workplace. The distant, grandiose notion of the boardroom can seem worlds away. Despite our awareness that men and women are treated differently in the world of work, in our current ‘workplace’ of the student community, relative equality reigns. As we all share similarities in our school record, workload and work experience, Buckingham calls us ‘a muchness’. As undergraduates, we all have a similar range of opportunities available to us. Our student careers and eventual grades, unlike our future salaries, are not determined by our sex.

This student bubble of relative gender equality is to burst as we graduate, as women stand to earn around 13% less than men for the same role. Buckingham suggests that in doing the same job for less money, women are not valuing themselves as highly as men. This trend also reveals itself in a survey conducted by Hobbs CEO Nicky Dulieu, in which 34% of women cited their preference for a male boss, accusing female leaders of lacking in personality. However worrying this seems, the survey also showed that the younger generation are keen for change, with the majority of 18-24 year olds favouring female leadership. It could be argued that it is the archaic, patriarchal mind-set that does not value women as highly as men, as opposed to the women themselves.

Hopefully this fresh, modern belief in workplace equality, often rehearsed in the university environment, can help to raise the glass ceiling which acts as a constant barrier to the nurturing of female leadership.

By Izzy Stephenson, WES 2015 Communications Team member

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