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NEWS: Recession takes its toll on women high-fliers


The pipeline of female leadership for UK business could be reversed or irreparably damaged by the recession, with almost three quarters of City professionals in a recent survey saying they see redundancy as an opportunity to exit corporate life and make a new start. 60% believe the recession will reinforce the glass ceiling, making it more difficult for women to progress.

The survey, by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, with over 1,000 respondents, examined initial impressions of the impact of the recession on women’s careers, and the wider legacy of the downturn in three years’ time.

•73% believe the recession will be an opportunity for women looking to exit corporate life to take redundancy as a new start

•45% believe it will lead to a shift of women into SME/social enterprise careers

•40% of respondents said that they believe women’s roles will change to become the main earner

•One in three believe women’s role as primary carer will have changed when the recession is over (36%)

The respondents, from the UK, Europe, Americas and Australasia, were dominated by women working in the banking, finance and professional services sector in London and the south of England.

The results demonstrate how short term decisions regarding reductions in training, development and redundancies could adversely affect women’s development and progress to leadership positions in the recovering economy. 50% of respondents believe reductions in learning and development budgets now will make it more difficult for women to progress in the long term.

Sarah Churchman, director of diversity, PricewaterhouseCoopers commented:
“It’s no surprise that women turn to their entrepreneurial side in a recession and see opportunities for a new start or role after years of corporate life. However, the by product of the recession could be to stall or reverse the sector’s gender diversity progress and investment, short changing the UK economy’s recovery by removing or alienating a generation of female talent.

“Banking, finance and professional services provide a valuable part of the leadership pipeline for UK plc. Securing and maintaining the recruitment, retention and development of women in mid management roles now, is the only way a pipeline of women in senior executive roles can be maintained in the recovery.”

Asked to select one prediction of the world of work in three years time, respondents appear to be bracing themselves for a bitter legacy from the recession. The top prediction was the re-emergence of presenteeism and a long hours working culture as people seek to ensure their role’s continued survival. A further 12% believe that corporate expectations of working hours will have changed and ten percent predicted that uncertainty about financial and work issues will have caused people to delay having a family.


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