By Marcus Leach

New research reveals that women are increasingly breaking through the ‘glass ceiling’ and have increasing employment opportunities, particularly in terms of career advancement and remuneration. However, it warns that barriers still remain.

Based on interviews with more than 180 HR Directors from companies across the UK, over three quarters of respondents (78 per cent) do not believe that men have an advantage over women in the workplace, demonstrating that there is progress being made on the gender front.

The research from leading recruitment specialist Robert Half warns that despite this optimism, a fifth (20 per cent) of HR directors do not think that women are on par with men in the workplace, indicating that there may still be inconsistencies based on gender.

Half of the respondents (50 per cent) believe that family commitments are responsible for this imbalance and a significant number of HR directors consider lack of promotional opportunities (42 per cent) and the desire to maintain a good work life balance (36 per cent) the differentiating factors between men and women’s professional development.

“While it is encouraging that nearly half of HR directors don’t view men as having an advantageous position over women in the workplace, more needs to be done," said Phil Sheridan, managing director of Robert Half UK.

“Companies should regularly review their succession and remuneration plans to ensure that women are treated fairly and equally, with policies to take into account their family and personal commitments.

“HR policies should help to embrace a culture of progression and innovation within an organisation. This is particularly important in light of the recent report by Lord Davies, which pushes for targets to be implemented to ensure that more talented and gifted women can get into the top jobs in companies across the UK.

“Companies can help break the glass ceiling by carefully managing the talents of strong female candidates early in their careers and implementing diversity programmes specifically tailored to women”.

The research also reveals that initiatives specifically designed to support women’s advancement in the workplace are low on the agenda for a majority of UK companies, with only 41 per cent of HR directors saying they have or plan to introduce programmes specifically tailored for women.

Companies in London are leading the way here (42 per cent), as are organisations in the public sector (48 per cent). For those who do have policies in place, it is encouraging to see that an overwhelming 93 per cent of respondents believe they are effective in helping women become professionally on par with men in the workplace.

This suggests that, in addition to improving a business’ diversity credentials, these policies are a good employer branding opportunity to encourage more women candidates to apply to these roles.

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