Groundbreaking day for women in work

More than 300 business leaders attended the inaugural Women in Work Summit, which took place at London’s Kings Place on Sept 27, co-hosted by Mariella Frostrup, pictured above, presenter and broadcaster, and Dr Nighat Arif, a GP with a specialist interest in women’s health and family planning and an ambassador for the event’s charity, Wellbeing of Women.

The Women in Work Summit drew support from senior politicians including Annaliese Dodds, Shadow Secretary of State for Women & Equalities, and MPs Carolyn Harris and Caroline and

Annaliese Dodds, Shadow Secretary of State for Women & Equalities, said: “185,000 women between the ages of 50-64 have left the workplace since the pandemic, so we are clearly not getting this right. Those age groups are the ones that have the experience, just like their male counterparts of that age. A fifth of them are on NHS waiting lists, and gynaecological waiting lists are the worst in the NHS, so we need to get a grip on that. We also need to deliver on flexibility in the workplace. We are in 2023, it’s not like we’re lacking evidence; we know what we need to do.”

Speakers and panellists included business leaders such as Ian Elliot, Chief People Officer at PWC, Mark Read, CEO of WPP, Alex Mahon, CEO of Channel 4, and Dame Sharon White, CEO of the John Lewis Partnership, who shared her own personal experience as a parent.

Dame Sharon White said: “I had my first child at 37 and my second at 40. The change in navigating the world of work as a woman who was a mother was fundamentally different in a way, even as somebody who for years had promoted and worked with lots of women, that I had completely underestimated. It was the first time that my anatomy was starting to define – not necessarily my career choices, but those that others saw for me.”

Male advocacy was high up the agenda, with male speakers also including Varun Chandra from Hakluyt, Paul Pester from Tandem Bank, Ryan Mendy from Zilch, and dad’s rights campaigner Elliott Rae, founder of the parenting platform MusicFootballFatherhood, delivering a resoundingly popular session calling for men to “parent out loud” at work. Rae explained that the gender pay gap for women over 40 is three times higher than for women under 40, attributed to time out for maternity and childcare.

Elliott Rae, founder of the parenting platform MusicFootballFatherhood said: “Every additional month of paternity leave that dads take increases the mother’s earnings by 6.7% over their lifetime. It’s imperative for dads to achieve gender equity. Employers have to think about how they are supporting all parents. Younger men are increasingly making decisions based on flexibility, paternity leave, and how are you, as an employer, thinking about my life outside of work?”

Supporting women in the workplace is not just morally good, but economically essential, which was emphasised all day, and is underlined by the statistics driving this event, which include the following:

● Less than a quarter (24%) of women go back to full-time after having children.

● Of that 24%, 79% ended up leaving anyway due to not being able to maintain a full-time role (That Works for Me, 2023).

● There is currently a 7.2% gender participation gap (PWC Women in Work); 14% national gender pay gap (Hansard); 37% female board level representation (PWC Women in Work).

● Only one in four C-suite leaders is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of colour (Mckinsey, 2022).

● One in ten women leave the workforce during their menopause.

Five per cent of the revenue from the venture goes towards Wellbeing of Women, the only UK charity funding all of women’s reproductive and gynaecological health.