Great Britain

Women make up nearly half of the UK workforce — when will men learn Mum can be boss too?

WHEN it comes to equality for women at work, it is often a case of one step forward, two steps back.

Just when you might think we are making progress — with Samira Ahmed’s victory last week against the BBC, for example — something happens to remind you we still have a long way to go.

The Fawcett Society’s latest Sex And Power Index offers a stark reminder of how men continue to dominate top jobs in politics and the civil service, the law, trade unions, charities and sport.But there are some reasons to be hopeful.

Forty-four per cent of NHS trust chief execs are now women. Thirty per cent of university vice-chancellors are women. In 2003, it was just 14 per cent.

But the pace of change is dismally slow.

In some areas we have even gone backwards — 31 per cent of public bodies are chaired by women but in 2018 that figure was 44 per cent.

There are more female MPs than ever but they make up just 34 per cent of the total number. Just 27 per cent of peers in the House of Lords are Ladies.

Then there are the supposedly family-friendly careers such as education — but just 39 per cent of secondary school head teachers are female.

Perhaps it is less surprising that just over one in 20 chief executives of FTSE 100 companies are women, two in six national newspaper editors and one in five bosses of national sport governing bodies.

You get the idea.

Women make up nearly half the UK workforce but there are nowhere near enough of us in top jobs.

Change is not happening nearly swiftly enough.

Clearly, the best candidates shouldget these jobs but, too often, women are being overlooked by male selection panels. They are still seen as a burden by some employers.

And why? Motherhood.

We are still being made redundant or sacked after having babies. Eleven per cent of new mums suffer this fate, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Or else these women are treated so poorly that they feel they have to leave their jobs.

This contributes to 54,000 women each year losing their employment.

In the meantime, almost half of employers think it is quite reasonable, during the recruitment process, to ask female candidates whether or not they have children.

Forty-one per cent of employers believe pregnancy in the workplace puts “an unnecessary cost burden” on firms, and that working mums are a burden to their teams.

This is a problem.

It’s a fact of life that women give birth. So must we simply accept that, until babies can be grown outside the womb, women will be discriminated against at work?

No.

The working mums I employ are among my hardest-working and most productive employees.

WASTING TALENTS AND SKILLS

But STILL we miss out on the top jobs, despite efforts to close the gender gap in industry — and all the positive campaigning.

I could not agree more with Sam Smethers, the Fawcett Society’s chief executive, who says: “Despite much lip service being paid to the importance of having women in top jobs, today’s data shows we are still generations away from achieving anything close to equality. We are wasting women’s talent and skills.”

In other words, too many big companies are all talk and no action.

Smethers thinks we need quotas, targets and policy interventions to remove barriers and promote change.

I agree with her.

But we also need more research so we can really understand the problem.

We need to trust workers when it comes to flexible working and job-sharing.

We need to see more men taking parental leave.

But perhaps most of all, we need high-quality, affordable childcare so women and men can all go to work knowing that their children are being well looked after.

Then we might see some real change.

Kim's skims are too skimpy

I DON’T know about you but any shapewear called Skims – and which is as scanty as Kim Kardashian’s new range – is definitely NOT for me.

I don’t want my shapewear to “skim” anything.

And I struggle to understand what a G-string can shape.

What I want from shapewear is maximum coverage, ideally starting under my chin and finishing at my ankles.

Let’s face it, that is the only sure way to hold anything in.

Bridge's over her troubles

HATS off to Frankie Bridge for bravely sharing the details of her battle with depression.

In a new book, the 31-year-old former Saturdays singer writes about hitting “rock bottom” in 2011, describing her secret breakdown and stint in a psychiatric hospital.

In Open: Why Asking For Help Can Save Your Life, Frankie tells the story of going straight from shooting the video for The Saturdays’ single My Heart

Takes Over in Iceland to being driven to London’s private Nightingale Hospital by her now-husband Wayne, the former England footballer.

I really feel for Frankie and it’s awful she had such a hard time. But her opening up about it like this will help others, not least because it reminds us that celebs’ gilded lives aren’t always what they seem from the outside.

In Open: Why Asking For Help Can Save Your Life.

Splutter madness

I’M glad we can all rest easy knowing passengers who arrived at Heathrow from the Chinese city of Wuhan were being carefully vetted for snake flu by being asked to ring the NHS helpline if they started to feel ill.

But one passenger described their passage through Heathrow’s baggage reclaim and customs as pretty straightforward, despite fears that the health crisis would escalate.

They said: “We were given a mask, a check of our temper- ature, and told to ring the NHS helpline if we started feeling ill – and that was it.”

Flights out of the city – home to 11million people – have now been cancelled and other flights are being monitored.

Sorry, but how about putting a ban in place Before people get on flights?

Our NHS is already on its knees, without all this added pressure.

People who live in glass houses

IT is hard to feel much sympathy for Lindsay Urquhart, the architect trying to shut down the viewing platform at Tate Modern because she claims visitors to the art gallery have aimed “obscene gestures” at her . . . in her £2MILLION apartment.

She says she feels “completely exposed” in her flat in the millionaires’ block Neo Bankside.

Apparently visitors using Tate Modern’s tenth-floor observation deck enjoy unobstructed views into her glass-walled home, which Lindsay considers to be an intrusion.

All I can say is people who live in glass houses . . . should get net curtains.

Moaning Markle is Dad loss

OVER the past couple of years, Meghan has been criticised over everything from her clothes to the way she sits and even how she holds her baby son Archie in his sling.

Personally, I’ve never understood any of it – least of all criticism of her for cutting her dad Thomas out of her life.

Apart from Meghan and Thomas, no one knows exactly what happened to cause their rift.

But we DO know he says the same thing again and again in all those interviews – essentially, “Poor me”.

Revealingly, he added to this refrain in a Channel 5 documentary last week, saying: “Meghan owes me,” and adding: “It’s time to look after Daddy.”

Not for the first time, I found myself wondering if he had not staged pictures for the media or thrown his daughter under the bus to make himself look good – and had instead acted like a real father, whether or not they would still have some kind of relationship.

One thing I do know is this. No one cuts contact with their family lightly.

And the fact Thomas has continued to do interviews, despite his daughter’s repeated heartfelt pleas, is a good indication of why she feels she can’t trust him.

Mr Markle, it is time to let go. Meghan has.

Oh what a phoney

THE story of the retired welder who lamented the fact his phone had not rung for months did not quite make sense to me.

Taysider Alan Hattel, 75, realised his friends had discovered his gravestone had been commissioned by his ex-wife – and believed him to be already dead.

He said: “My phone has not rung for three or four months. I’ve been confused by it all. But now I know why nobody has been calling.”

Er, hello?! Phones can make calls as well as receive them.

Why didn’t Alan just pick up his phone and ring a friend – then assure them he was alive?

My friends mostly know I’m alive because I sometimes check in and speak to them.

Samira Ahmed wins employment tribunal brought against the BBC in dispute over equal pay