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Women’s Business Council – good news for women returners?

The barriers to women’s career progression are back in the news with the publication of a report by the Women’s Business Council (WBC), looking at ways of
maximising women’s contribution to economic growth and assessing priorities in
removing the barriers that women face in playing a full part in business and
the workplace.  But does it say anything
new and interesting for women returners?
And will anything change as a result?
What’s new?
headline of the report is that there are 2.4 million women who are not working
and who want to work.  So this is
a report seems to be about women returners, the first time this topic has been
approached so comprehensively.  It
probably helps that Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE, the Chair of the WBC herself took
an 18 month career break and is now CEO of a FTSE-250 company.
As you
might expect, the report addresses barriers to our careers from start to
finish.  It breaks its recommendations
down into four areas: broadening girls’ aspirations at school (Starting Out);
flexible working and other support for working parents (Getting On); women in
the ‘third part’ of their working lives (Staying On); and female entrepreneurship
aspects are new and of note:
The needs of women wishing to return to work
after a break are highlighted, along with support for parents who continue to
It is significant, I think, that there is not
yet a recognised term for the ‘third part’ of our lives: it is a symptom of how
invisible older women can feel.
So the
WBC must be applauded for bringing these dimensions into public debate and to
the attention of the Government.
Will anything change?
It is
hard to see how in these difficult economic times, the Government will do more
than it is already.  Indeed its response
to the report does little more than reiterate the actions it has already
taken.  What the Government does promise,
however, is to:
Lead by example in incorporating the WBC’s
message and approach in flexible working, as a major employer;
Appoint a business champion for older workers
and to work with existing bodies to develop new approaches for this group;
Provide better web-based support for women
entrepreneurs and tackle the belief that they are less likely to obtain banking
finance than men
For its
part, the WBC will meet every six months to monitor progress and will report in
one year on what has been achieved.
while the Government and business will be looking anew at women’s careers and
how to support them, the focus is mostly on continuing to do what they are
already doing for working women.  I fear
It might, therefore, take some time for the effects to trickle out into the
world of women returners.
What do you think of the WBC’s report
and the Government’s response? What measures do you think would make a
difference to you returning to work?
Posted by Katerina