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Not all women winning at work

International women's Day was ushered in triumphantly as Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for best director.

The corporate world managed to take the shine off the success as the World Economic Forum (WEF) released a report criticising businesses around |the world for failing to close the gender gap.

This came as Prime Minister Gordon Brown said it was “completely unacceptable” that some UK firms had no female board representation and that if nothing changed, “we will need to consider taking more serious action”.

The WEF yesterday released its Corporate Gender Gap Report, the first study into some of the world's largest companies, which found many had failed to tackle the issue of equal pay and were losing female talent.

Saadia Zahidi, one of the report's authors and head of the WEF's Women Leaders and Gender Parity Programme, said it sounded an “alarm bell” that companies were not doing enough to combat gender inequality. “While a certain set of companies in Scandinavia, the US and the UK are indeed leaders in integrating women, the idea that most corporations have become gender-balanced or women-friendly is still a myth,” she said.

At 52%, the US has the highest percentage of women employees at all levels, followed by Spain at 48% and Canada at 46%. While India may be making progress with equality in its parliament — a third of seats will be reserved for women under a proposed law — |it lags in employment, with women making up just 23% of the workforce.

The UK came in 7th with women employees making up just less than 40% of the workforce.

Ruth Sealy, deputy director of the International Centre for Women Leaders, said: “Corporate UK is losing out on intellectual capital. The issue needs to be addressed at every level. To pave the way for more senior women, you have to make sure you don't lose them further down.”

Ms Sealy found that only 12.2% of FTSE 100 board members were women. “Nobody likes the idea of quotas, as it isn't meritocratic,” she said. “Yet meritocracy only works with a level playing field. It isn't level in the UK.”