Tuesday, 22nd May 2007
Tim Buckley Owen
Successful women in the information industry have given a mixed reaction to a recent report which suggests that women may be stepping off the career ladder before they hit the glass ceiling. According to a survey based on figures from the PriceWaterhouseCoopers Monks pay database, there’s been a 40% decline in women in senior management level posts in the FTSE 350 leading companies over the past five years.
PWC suggests that the 27% increase in the cost of child care over a similar period might be one factor – but there is also evidence that more women are going into business for themselves. The latest Department of Trade & Industry Small Business Survey shows that the proportion of businesses wholly or predominantly owned by women has risen to 17%.
So are these trends reflected in our own sector? ‘My own perception is that this observation is probably less true within the information industry,’ says Jackie Marfleet, Senior Manager Business Advisory Services at Ernst & Young LLP.
‘I can think of a number of women in senior positions and I don't think they're jumping off the career ladder any sooner than their male counterparts,’ she continues. ‘I do however feel that, relative to other professions, senior managers within the information industry tend to move companies less frequently.’
Gwenda Sippings left a senior position in the corporate legal environment to take a director's role in central government, with a place on the Inland Revenue's Management Committee. After three years and a merger with HM Customs and Excise, she decided to take a career break, and is now established as an independent consultant.
‘In central government there was an acknowledged intention to ensure that women had the opportunity to progress to top management levels,’ Gwenda says. ‘I was active in a strong Cabinet Office led Senior Women's Network, in the Whitehall and Industry Women's Group, and I was sponsored on the Civil Service's residential Top Management Programme.’
Going into business for yourself is certainly a good career move, believes information industry recruitment specialist Sue Hill. ‘Having my own company allows me the utmost flexibility which is something that is often not there in “traditional” employment,’ she says. ‘Women are smart and see that if they work for themselves they can make the rules.’
However, she adds, ‘A quick snapshot of the most senior people or highest achievers on our books over the last 10 or so years shows that the majority of women who have gone to the highest levels did not have children.’ This is not to say that women who have children stop developing, but ‘the break of 1-10 years usually results in a down shift at re-start time’.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers Monks survey data available to download at: http://www.ukmediacentre.pwc.com/Content/Detail.asp?ReleaseID=2254&NewsAreaID=2
Daycare Trust Childcare Cost Survey 2006: http://www.daycaretrust.org.uk
Labour Force Survey, Women’s Business Ownership report: http://www.sbs.gov.uk/SBS_Gov_files/researchandstats/WomensBusinessOwnershipMainReport.pdf
DTI annual Small Business Survey: http://www.sbs.gov.uk/sbsgov/action/detail?type=RESOURCES&itemId=7000027837
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