Shadow Chancellor Calls for British Business to Back Biggest Ever Survey Into Female Progression at Work

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwired - Dec 3, 2013) - Ed Balls today urged British business to respond to the biggest survey ever conducted into the experiences of women at work as the initial findings were revealed.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, on meeting women business owners in Swindon, Wiltshire, gave his backing to the groundbreaking 28-40 survey, which was recently launched by Opportunity Now - the gender equality campaign from Business in the Community (BITC).

Opportunity Now's Director, Kathryn Nawrockyi, joined Nationwide Building Society's Chief Operating Officer Tony Prestedge in discussing the survey with the Shadow Chancellor. Nationwide, as a Board member of Opportunity Now, is one of more than 75 companies from across the private and public sectors to sign up to the survey and has a workforce of around 15,000 - 67% of which is female.

The Shadow Chancellor said: "We still have a long way to go to achieve true equality in the workplace for women. So I strongly support Nationwide and Opportunity Now to urge women in businesses across the UK to add their voices to this survey in order to be as representative as possible for women across the UK and Republic of Ireland. Let's beat the target of 100,000 women's voices so we can help push policy makers to understand the challenge and rise to it."

The survey, which has already been completed by 14,000 women, aims to draw on the experiences of 100,000 women on issues such as pay and progression. It will mainly, although not exclusively, gauge the views of women aged between 28 and 40 years old - determined as the period where the gap between female and male career progression widens.

The results so far show an emerging story about the struggles many women face around progression. They include:

  • 81% feel having children will affect their career progression

  • 72% feel conflicted in their ability to balance family with career

  • 62% of women feel pressured to succeed at both work and home

  • 69% say society expects women to put family before their career

  • 66% believe work needs to be their number one priority if they are to advance their career

  • 91% believe that most senior roles involve pressure, long hours and high stress levels

  • 80% think that the top women in business are portrayed as 'superwomen' by the media

  • 63% feel that flexible working still means working long hours

  • 34% believe that the opportunities to advance are equal between women who have children and those who do not

  • 89% of women thinking that being a working mother makes them a good role model for their children, provides balance in their lives and enables them to provide a good life for their children.

  • Almost 90% of respondents say they have not experienced sexual harassment over the past three years

Kathryn Nawrockyi, Director of Opportunity Now, said: "The early results of the survey highlight a conundrum that many women face: they want to work and develop their careers, but they often perceive the sacrifices and pressures as too great. These early indications show that there remain serious issues that need tackling - this survey, as the largest ever undertaken globally, will enable us to use the findings to help address inequalities going forward."

Nationwide's Tony Prestedge said: "It is vital that businesses pull together to better address the inequality that still exists between women and men in the workplace - this is a shared responsibility. As a diversity champion and an organisation that prides itself on being inclusive, we are putting our weight behind this issue. This is why we are committed to capturing the views of as many women as possible, to help make this survey a resounding success."

The survey is open for another three weeks at In the first quarter of 2014, Opportunity Now will hold focus groups to explore themes that emerge from the research. The initial findings of the report will be launched during Business in the Community's Responsible Business Week (31 March - 4 April 2014).

Notes to editors:

Opportunity Now work to increase women's success at work, because it benefits business and society. It works with its membership of employers, from the private, public and education sectors to offer tailored, practical and pragmatic advice on workplace issues. Opportunity Now is the women at work campaign from Business in the Community, a charity which stands for responsible business.


About Business in the Community: Business in the Community stands for responsible business. With a membership of over 850 companies, engagement in 10,700 organisations internationally and an employee reach of 14.7 million, Business in the Community is raising the benchmark for responsible business practice. We offer our members practical support to help them transform their businesses and integrate responsible practices into their operations. And we ask our members to work in partnership with us to help transform communities and tackle serious social issues where business can make a real difference. Business in the Community is one of the Prince's Charities, a group of not-for-profit organisations of which The Prince of Wales is President.