The Women’s Business Council (WBC) was set up by, the now Prime Minister, Theresa May in 2012, as a government-backed, business-led initiative. We launched our ‘Maximising women’s contribution to future economic growth’ report in June 2013. The Council has remained in place to oversee the implementation of the business recommendations, raise the profile of the Council’s priorities and champion best practice. Due to its success, the WBC’s remit was extended to 2019. The WBC is currently chaired by Fiona Dawson, President of Mars Global Food, Multisales and Global Customers.
The WBC aims to encourage action within business to implement the recommendations outlined in the 2013 report. Through these recommendations the WBC believe that we have the opportunity to raise aspirations and allow talented people to reach their long term potential – ultimately, this will improve the talent pipeline and drive economic growth, positioning the economy for success.
The WBC achievements over the past 4 years include:
- Helping to drive legislative changes such as Shared Parental Leave and the right to request flexible working.
- Raising awareness of the need for tax-free childcare and improved provision.
- Promoting best practice within companies to tackle the gender pay gap, and the WBC have helped to develop the gender pay gap reporting regulations.
- Published over 150 topical business case studies.
The WBC operating model is structured with 5 action groups that focus on discrete sections of a woman’s career with an aim to closing the gender pay gap:
- Starting Out – focuses on improving careers advice for girls, particularly to encourage more girls to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This group also seeks to find ways to ensure that women can progress to the very top of STEM industries.
- Getting On – focuses on ensuring gender parity at middle management level (currently 34%) and to encourage women to progress further.
- Staying On – focuses on removing barriers in the workplace for older workers. This group looks at why women take career breaks, how to juggle caring responsibilities with work and apprenticeships to upskill older workers.
- Men as Change Agents – focuses on increasing the number of male leaders championing gender equality in the workplace, including programmes for men to act as sponsors and mentors to promote women’s leadership and cultural change.
- Enterprise – with a focus on increasing the number of women owned businesses.
The WBC was expanded in June 2016, to include more men and industries with a traditional underrepresentation of women and to include representatives from the devolved administration. Our 2016 Progress report says:
“Too often, for too long, gender equality has been the business of women. Although most men are supportive of gender equality in principle, there is a need to translate this into action. The WBC has always recognised that men have to be part of the solution. They are disproportionately likely to run the companies that can provide flexible working, they are often the co-parents who can share parental leave, they are often the bosses who can provide a supportive atmosphere to women returners, they are the friends and peers of other men and so can influence norms and attitudes to women in the workplace. In order to break down the gender stereotyping of career choices we need boys to choose ‘women’s jobs’ as well as girls choosing ‘men’s jobs’.”