Equality Hub
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Equality Hub

How can businesses support women to progress?

Last week the Minister, Baroness Stedman-Scott, met with two senior business leaders at PwC Leeds, to talk about programmes for supporting development in the workplace.

Rebecca is an audit partner who left school during her GCSEs to become a mum, later completing a degree and joining PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in a graduate role. Rebecca takes a lead role in promoting the Inclusion and Diversity agenda within the Northern Audit practice

Maureen is a Kenyan citizen, who moved to the UK with her partner in July 2021 from PwC Kenya to become a senior associate at PwC Leeds. She has over six years of experience in audit and specialises in the audit of private companies across different industries and areas including PwC Kenya, PwC Uganda and PwC Leeds.

Maureen (left) and Rebecca (right)

Read their conversation with the Minister:

Shared Parental Leave

Rebecca: “Particularly in the Northern business unit, we’ve been trying to give more air time to shared parental leave. I can sit here and name four men, at director level, who in the last 18 months have taken shared paternity leave.

Having people at senior level do this normalises in society that childcare is not just a woman’s responsibility. It gives our staff great role models.”

Parents and carers

Rebecca: “We have a number of firmwide people networks to promote inclusion and connection. This includes a Gender Balance Network and our SPACE (Supporting, Parents, Carers and Everyone Else) Network. PwC provides employees 10 days backup childcare annually, which is provided by Bright Horizons, one of our benefit providers.

We’re starting to be more vocal and talking about things like miscarriage, fertility treatment and menopause. It’s important to start talking about subjects that everyone knows are out there, but are not often talked about.”

Role models

Rebecca: “We have a programme called Women in Business, which is a three-day paid work placement to shadow other women at all levels within PwC, to help people realise what it’s like and what’s needed. For experienced hires we’ve banned all-male shortlists.

Personal experience

Rebecca: “I left school at 15 to have a child, and I went to live in a Salvation Army home. I don’t have any GCSEs or A Levels. You can’t judge someone by their grades at that age, or many other factors. I still got into this firm and worked my way up to partner. We’re doing a lot around improving recruitment to help people from different backgrounds. We have a whole team dedicated to social mobility.”

Minister for Women: “More credit to you for what you’ve risen to. I used to work for the Salvation Army, they’re terrific. You’ve done remarkably well and you’re a credit to yourself and your organisation.”

Maureen: “I came over on a secondment from PwC Kenya. We have a mentorship scheme here that pairs people junior in the team to a partner or director, which we had in Kenya as well. They can guide you to what you need to do to reach the next level.

“I don’t feel held back in any way. People here are very open, they listen, they’re available, they appreciate the work that you do.”

What is the government doing?

Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay is available to people who are:

  • having a baby
  • using a surrogate to have a baby
  • adopting a child

Parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them.

Flexible working

The Government has announced plans to make requesting flexible working a day one right. We have opened a consultation to reform flexible working regulations and change default working practices.

This will include introducing a day one right to one-week’s unpaid leave for carers balancing a job with caring responsibilities.

The Government has also worked with the Flexible Working Taskforce to produce advice for employers and employees on the practical and current legal issues associated with hybrid working (a mixture of workplace and remote working). The Taskforce will continue to help the Government properly understand the profound changes in working over the past 16 months — and promote flexible working as we build back better from the pandemic.

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