Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Women still struggle to break glass ceiling

An analysis of more than 7,000 jobs across 10 sectors in Northern Ireland found that women occupied 43% of the top jobs, but that disguises areas where the gender imbalance is shockingly wide
An analysis of more than 7,000 jobs across 10 sectors in Northern Ireland found that women occupied 43% of the top jobs, but that disguises areas where the gender imbalance is shockingly wide

Editor's Viewpoint

At first glance it might seem that women are making very good progress in breaking through the glass ceiling in the workplace. An analysis of more than 7,000 jobs across 10 sectors in Northern Ireland found that women occupied 43% of the top jobs, but that disguises areas where the gender imbalance is shockingly wide.

Only a third of top jobs in the judiciary are held by women and only a quarter of the most senior posts in the PSNI.

That may reflect historic levels which can be notoriously difficult to change. In policing it could be argued that the force faced unique challenges within the UK due to terrorism, which may have deterred some women joining.

However, it could be argued that just as the police tackled religious imbalance in the force via a 50/50 recruitment policy - currently discontinued, but which may be restored - a quota system could also work in attracting more female officers.

Perhaps the most shocking statistic in the survey is that only three of the Belfast Telegraph's Top 100 companies have female chief executives. Women make up more than half of the workforce, but tend to be concentrated in lower-paid, part-time employment and their career prospects are further restricted because historically they end up with the family-rearing role, which interrupts their progress through the ranks of companies.

Yet is is difficult to believe - given the number of women in the workforce - that more have not made it through to the very top posts, given that a significant number of the companies surveyed are homegrown, where it would be expected female employees would feel they have a greater stake and better opportunities for progress.

It is also interesting to note that women have not made the expected progress in politics here. Three-quarters of councillors are men and only three of the 11 councils have female CEOs. Given that the two major parties, and two of the smaller parties, are led by females, it seems that even having role models is not sufficient encouragement to get more women into public life.

Women do best in education, with 60% of primary school principals being female, although men hold the majority of those posts in secondary education. Perhaps more needs to be done in schools to promote equality in that sector and also to encourage women to aim for the very top in the wider world of work and finally shatter that ceiling.

Belfast Telegraph

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