Business, Innovation and Skills CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by iNHouse Communications

1. Executive Summary

1.1 iNHouse Communications is delighted to have the opportunity to respond to the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee inquiry on Women in the Workplace.

1.2 iNHouse Communications is a full-service communications agency founded by women.

1.3 We also campaign to see more women involved in politics, public affairs and the media. We recently launched HerSay—an online media resource of women experts. This network provides an invaluable resource for those in politics and the media who are looking to garner a female perspective for interview or commentary pieces.

1.4 We welcomed Lord Davies’ Independent Review into Women on Boards in February 2011 and broadly support the recommendations made in the report.

1.5 We support the efforts made to increase the number of women on corporate boards. We agree wholeheartedly that efforts should be made to ensure that FTSE 100 boards have a minimum of 25% female representation by 2015.

1.6 We support the decision in Lord Davies’ Independent Review not to recommend quotas to achieve these targets of female representation.

1.7 We recognise the progress made, as a result of Lord Davies’ recommendations, to increase the number of women on boards but it is evident that issues such as the gender pay gap and job segregation between men and women in the workplace, for example, remain.

1.8 Of particular interest to iNHouse Communications is the number of women involved in national politics and in the media. Despite efforts made to make politics more accessible to women, the number of women seeking election and those reaching cabinet level remains low.

2. Gender Equality Duty and the Equality Act

2.1 The Gender Equality Duty and the Equality Act have had a notable impact on improving gender equality and reducing discrimination in the workplace. The Duty required organisations to take action on the most important gender equality issues including working patterns and transport issues. It promotes equal opportunities between women and men and recognises that the two groups are not starting from an equal footing. The Equality Act sort to remove discrimination based on gender as well as other forms of discrimination such as sexuality or religion.

2.2 iNHouse Communications believe that whilst the Duty and the Equality Act have played an important role in reducing gender inequality and discrimination in the work place, much more needs to be done to reduce pay inequality, reducing job segregation and gender stereotyping whilst increasing flexible working and innovating paths to promotion for senior roles.

2.3 We are aware that many women are still paid less than their male counterparts across their sector and in some cases within the same company.

2.4 Of particular relevance to our sector is the on-going lack of female representation in national politics and we seek to encourage women to consider roles in politics, public affairs and in the media.

3. Part Time Work and Flexible Patterns of Work

3.1 We believe strongly that issues around flexible working, remote-working, role-sharing and part-time work are still a barrier to both men and women gaining senior positions within an organisation. The Gender Equality Duty acknowledged that women in particular can be disadvantaged by systems that don’t allow for their caring responsibilities and therefore the need for a different pattern of working life.

3.2 As such women in particular can benefit from more flexible patterns of work. In order to ensure the ‘supply chain’ of women within an organisation reaching senior positions, it is important that companies consider their ability to promote flexible working and to encourage those people working part-time or remotely to feel able to apply for senior positions within the organisation.

3.3 The work environment has been radically changed by our access to new technologies which enable both men and women to work outside the normal workplace. This must mean that companies consider alternative and innovative systems and training for promotion to a senior level.

4. Gender Balance and Quotas

4.1 As the Lord Davies’ Independent Review concludes the business case for gender diversity on boards and in the workplace is powerful; from improving performance and accessing the widest talent pool, to becoming more responsive to the market and achieving better corporate governance. For example reports suggest that companies with more women on their boards were found to outperform their rivals with a 42% higher return in sales.1

4.2 Despite this evidence, women are under-represented on the company boards in the UK and the pace of change on remains slow. This is despite the existing range of initiatives aimed at training, mentoring and supporting women to be “Board Ready”.

4.3 We do not believe that mandatory quotas are the best way to achieve a greater gender balance on company boards. Instead, we believe that market instigated and based initiatives, including targets, underpinned by the principle of ‘comply or explain’ is the best way to achieve long term sustainable change.

4.4 We agree that if in the future there is no further progress, then the need for legislative progress or non-legislative measures should be reviewed.

5. Women in senior positions

5.1 iNHouse Communications was foundered by women and through our work in the communications industry seek to promote greater equality in politics, public affairs and in the media.

5.2 It remains the case that gender stereotyping can be prevalent in certain professions. Engineering, construction and banking are perhaps the most obvious professions to be victim of gender stereotyping. However despite efforts made to make politics more accessible to women, the number of women seeking election and those reaching cabinet level remains low.

5.3 We agree with the recommendations made in Lord Davies’ Independent Review that a “combination of entrepreneurs, existing providers and individuals need to come together to consolidate and improve the provision of training and development for potential board members”.

5.4 It is apparent that current initiatives aimed at allowing women to gain necessary skills and attributes to serve on boards could be improved. In response iNHouse Communications and the HerSay resource, as well as acting as a media resource, provides mentoring and training opportunities for women at the top of their profession and as well as those working toward senior positions.

5.5 We believe that non-executive directorships, governorships, experience on public sector boards and board internships would encourage women to gain first-hand experience and build up confidence. We believe that these opportunities need to receive better promotion internally within companies to ensure that women are aware of the benefits of gaining this experience and are supported in pursuing these opportunities.

5.6 iNHouse Communications believe that companies, organisations and political parties should invest in talent pipelines which should encourage planning and training to help develop sufficient numbers of women who will be effective and willing to sit on boards and accept senior positions within organisations and in politics.

31 October 2012

1 “The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards”, Lois Joy, Nancy M Carter, Harvey M Wagener, Sriram Narayanan, Catalyst, 2007

Prepared 19th June 2013