Recently Sheila Eaton, Chairman of the NCW Social and Employment Policy Committee, attended the Women’s Business Council One Year On event at the Mansion House in London. The Women’s Business Council [WBC] is an independent group that was set up by the Government in 2012 with the aim of ensuring real action by the government, business and others to maximise women’s contribution to economic growth.

Sheila Eaton

In June 2013 the WBC published a number of recommendations for business and government to improve opportunities for women. The members have spoken to over 500 companies and individuals over the last year and held discussions with male Chief Executives. They concluded that male leaders are important as visible agents of change to ensure women are not held back in reaching their full potential in the workplace.

The Chair of the WBC Ruby McGregor-Smith says ‘we are hugely encouraged by the progress that has been made over the last year’ However this is not the time to be complacent she said ‘ a fundamental change in mind- set is still required from government and business leaders, if the last barriers are to be removed’.

Minister for Women Nicky Morgan said the Government has achieved a lot in the last year, including extending the right to request flexible working and theTax Free Childcare scheme.  She wanted ‘businesses and employers to play their part by driving forward the cultural change needed to ensure women can achieve their full potential. We will continue to work with the WBC.’ 

All the WBC members are business practitioners and essentially pragmatic and have made recommendations that are evidence- based, practical and achievable and can make a real difference if implemented; they will also show the recommendations are an investment not a cost. The Recommendations cover four areas;

Starting out; supporting thechoices of girls and young women.

Getting on; supporting women in the middle phase of their working lives.

Staying on; supporting women’s continuing development and contribution in the third stage of their working lives.

Enterprise; helping women to gain the skills necessary to set up and run their own business.

The WBC has done a tremendous job. Their recommendations are far reaching and culture changing.  Each section contains various recommendations for both Government and Businesses, but one specific action covering all areas is flexible working. This could change our entire culture and way of working in the future. Council member John Timpson CBE Chairman of Timpson Ltd states’ Old fashioned executives don’t realise what they are missing. Flexible working is a great way to run a business’, He says the case for flexible working is overwhelming; it is the best way to attract women while bringing benefits to men at the same time.

The WBC await the Government’s response to the report; they will continue to meet and monitor progress, also publish another report in one years time to put on record what has been achieved.