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Government Launches Action Plan For Women’s Achievement


A major programme to transform Britain’s culture ‘from the playground to the boardroom’ has been launched by Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly.

The Government’s action plan includes a raft of new measures following almost 40 recommendations made by the Women and Work Commission in their Shaping a Fairer Future report.

It aims to improve opportunities for women to get on at work and encourage a culture change within those companies and organisations still failing to see the huge economic potential of their female workforce.

Measures include:

  • An ‘Exemplar Employer Initiative’ - the Government will work with employers to develop programmes such as helping women access quality part-time work, flexible working for women and setting up job share registers. More than 80 organisations have already signed up for the scheme, ranging from large companies such as Tesco, Co-Op and National Grid to small business, public sector organisations and universities.

  • The roll-out of new ‘Equality Reps’ across England. The scheme aims to step up awareness among workers of flexible working rights and discrimination issues by working alongside statutory union representatives.

  • A new ‘Equality Check’ to help companies spot any emerging problems with equal treatment of staff such as determining the level of gender pay gap.

  • A national education standard in schools: to step up cultural change by making girls aware of non-traditional career opportunities. This will come into force from April 2007 to ensure all young people receive careers information, advice and guidance which is free from gender stereotyping.

  • A new half £500,000 fund to support companies and organisations in increasing the number of senior and quality roles available part-time.

And to start the programme rolling, Ruth Kelly announced that all jobs in her own department will now be advertised as available on a flexible or part-time basis.

Launching the action plan, she said: “Today’s parents find it difficult to balance professional and family commitments – the role of government should be to help them make the decisions that suit them and their families.

“The proposals we are setting out aim to establish a change in culture from the playground to the boardroom. Just because a woman decides to trade down her hours, doesn't mean she should trade down her status.

“There have been huge improvements across the workplace but we want all employers to reach the standards of the best.

“The best of business already understands the benefits that flexible working delivers but it’s time the rest jumped on board. There is a hard-headed business reason for this – the Women and Work Commission suggests helping women harness their full potential is worth up to £23billion a year to the UK economy.

“So my message to business is clear, this is not about political correctness, this is about improving your profit margins.”

Chair of the Women and Work Commission, Baroness Margaret Prosser said:

“I am extremely pleased that the Women and Work Commission recommendations are being taken forward by so many government departments.

“If government, trade unions and business continue to work together, I believe that we can make a real difference to the lives of millions of working women in this country.”


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