International Women's Day (8 March) marks 105 years since hundreds of female garment and textile workers went on strike in New York City protesting against low wages, long working hours and inhumane working conditions.
Women now make up 50 per cent of the UK workforce and, during the last decade in particular have progressed to occupy better paid, more senior roles. A quarter of managers in the UK are now women and one in ten have
reached the boardroom. Forty one per cent of female executives, who are married or living with a partner, bring home the main salary and a further 33 per cent are joint breadwinners according to research? by the Institute
of Management (IM).
Women managers also value work as a key part of their life, with 86 per cent saying it is an important part of who they are as a person. Today's female managers are ambitious and confident - fifty six per cent aspire to a board level position, 23 per cent in their current organisation and 33 per cent elsewhere.
Women are succeeding in their working lives despite the challenges they face in balancing professional and personal commitments. Today's professional women are increasingly known as the "sandwich generation", due to the dual
responsibilities they have in caring for children as well as elderly parents and relatives. Forty six per cent of female managers have children, and one in ten cares for others such as elderly parents.
Christine Hayhurst, IM Director of Public Affairs, commented: "With people
living longer, and the trend for women to begin having children at a later
age, family commitments will continue to present challenges to working women
and organisations alike."
When it comes to home commitments, women still take the main responsibility
for household chores, although couples are increasingly sharing
responsibilities and are more likely to buy in help, with services such as
cleaning and ironing, than they did five years ago. Fifty two per cent of
couples now share cooking - up from thirty four per cent in 1996 - and
twenty five per cent buy in cleaning services.
The IM report offers recommendations on what organisations can do to support
women managers, and suggests a proactive approach should be taken to assist
the "sandwich generation". The report suggests that organisations:
· Recognise, accept and be positive about caring responsibilities. Offer
family-friendly or flexible working provisions to employees, with and
· Be imaginative. Review benefit schemes and allow choice. Support for
childcare, for looking after an elderly relative, or for a sabbatical may be
more valuable to some employees than a company car.
Christine Hayhurst continued: "International Women's Day celebrates and
recognises the achievements of women. UK organisations need to recognise
that the women managers of today, and those of tomorrow, will continue to
face significant challenges. By supporting and encouraging women to maintain
their work/life balance, and by having adequate support networks and schemes
in place, women can continue to enjoy success in their business and personal