The study, which focussed on 1370 women in middle-ranking and senior jobs in four Local Authorities in England, found that women were failing to reach their potential because of inflexible job design and cultural expectations about full-time working and long hours. Of those who did reach senior levels, many felt unable to ask for flexible working or less than full time hours due to an informal rule that this type of working practice was unacceptable.
The study, Women's Career Development in the Local Authority Sector, revealed that many senior women in these local authorities felt a long hours and male dominated culture had disadvantaged them in the workplace. For women with children these practices had a disproportionate impact as they often needed to work part time.
The study found that despite these perceived barriers, many women working in the sector were highly committed to their jobs, enthusiastic about training and development and aspired to successful careers. Over 55 per cent of those contracted to work 31-37 hours a week were routinely working much longer hours, mainly due to their commitment to their jobs.
Over 60 per cent of the women surveyed who earned over £27,000 had never used their employer’s flexible working policies and fewer than 17 per cent of the women in this group were part-time employees.
Professor Sue Yeandle, who directed the research programme at Sheffield Hallam University and is an author of the study explains, "This study acts not only as evidence of what is happening in this particular sector, but raises concerns about women's experiences at work throughout the UK. Local authorities are in some ways very progressive employers, so if senior women in this type of organisation feel unable to work flexibly it is unlikely that women in other organisations are having better experiences.
"None of the authorities routinely advertised senior roles as possible part time opportunities and women who had gone part time often felt that their workload had not been adjusted to take account of the new hours.
"If the UK is to continue to prosper, then the skills, talent and enthusiasm of half its population cannot continue to be under-utilised in this way. We must move on from an employment system designed for the last century - it makes good business sense to design jobs around real people's lives as this is the only way employers can recruit from the best possible pool of people and retain the talent they have."
Jenny Watson, Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said, "These findings show that women are still facing many obstacles in the workplace and often end up in low paid, low prospect work despite being well qualified, especially when they want to work flexibly. There's a real opportunity for all us here. If the pay gap were closed, the Women and Work Commission estimates up to £23 billion could be added to the economy per year. It's particularly important to open up higher paid work to people who want to work flexibly so that they don't have to "trade down" to find the working style they need and employers don't have to lose out on their skills and experience. The EOC's ongoing investigation into transforming the workplace is looking, with employers, at how to do this."
Lorna Branton | alfa
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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