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32 GENDER EQUALITY Oppor N orma Jarboe, the Director of Opportunity Now talks about the current state of play, what the issues are for women and why employers should address them: “Despite 30 years of legislation, the issues around gender equality and diversity in the workplace remain complex, probably more so than ever before. 70% of working age women are in employment, but we make up only 9% of FTSE boards. It has been estimated that over 70% of the traditionally low paid “five c’s” – carers, cashiers, clerical staff, cleaners and catering personnel are women and that 5.6 million women are currently working in part–time jobs under their potential. The pay gap remains a serious issue for women and part–time work remains stigmatised as low paid and undervalued. Women working full time earn on average £559 per month less than men. For part–time women workers the pay gap is even more dramatic, in fact it has changed little in 35 years. The total benefits of reducing the gender segregation of jobs and increasing women’s employment has been estimated at between £15 billion and £23 billion and it could raise output in the UK’s economy by an equivalent of 2% of GDP. So although there are still some depressing inequalities in the labour market there is a big Norma Jarboe Director of Opportunity Opportunity Now is a membership organisation for employers who are committed to an inclusive workplace for women. It works to build and communicate the business case for this, to share and inspire best practice and to give employers and their people the tools to drive change. prize for employers who are willing to tackle and challenge the current status quo. Success is what diversity in the workplace is all about. Yes of course there are many undeniable moral and ethical reasons why employers should strive for diversity, inclusion and equality. But I also strongly believe that it is a business issue and tackling it will make organisations more successful, more competitive and more flexible. When employers get it right it helps them attract and retain the best people and can lead to a more creative approach to problem solving and delivering business demands. We encourage all employers to put together a specific and costed business case for tackling inequality and diversity in the workplace. Without this robust business case employers can neither inspire their managers nor hold them accountable for creating inclusive workplaces and until they do, actions to achieve gender equality will always be a nice to do rather than a business imperative. At Opportunity Now we are currently undertaking a large piece of research into how employers can make their business case more meaningful throughout the breadth of their operations and down the management line. When organisations realise the economic and competitive advantage being a good employer for women can bring – employers, women and society will prosper.” engage ISSUE TWO 2006