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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 14:21 GMT
Employers back gender pay scheme
Female lecturer
Many women are working below their ability, says the government
More than 100 firms have signed up to a plan to improve working conditions for women and challenge the gender pay gap.

Minister for Women, Ruth Kelly, said the firms have committed to cutting gender pay inequality by joining the government's Exemplar Employer Scheme.

Firms which have signed up come from a range of industries, and include Goldman Sachs, Shell and Parcelforce.

Ms Kelly has also launched a fund to help retain women in part-time jobs at senior levels.

The Quality Part Time Work Fund is aimed at helping firms pay for advisers to find ways to retain female workers.


The Exemplar Scheme encompasses a range of initiatives, including encouraging women to sign up for jobs that are traditionally male dominated, supporting mothers who want to return to work, and making more senior jobs available part-time.

Announced in September, the scheme has attracted 107 employers.

Helping women reach their full potential in the workplace in a win-win for everybody
John Cridland, deputy director general, CBI

Combined with the new fund, it marks a further push to encourage firms to get involved in challenging inequality in the workplace.

Both the Exemplar scheme and the Fund are in response to a Women and Work Commission report, published last year, which highlighted the reasons behind the gender gap.

The report found that flexibility at work was vital to retain women in the workplace and to ensure that more women had senior part-time roles.

"Helping women reach their full potential in the workplace in a win-win for everybody - for the individual, for the business, and for the economy," said John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI.

Economic benefit

According to Meg Munn, deputy minister for women, placing women in higher paid positions could be worth between 15bn and 23bn to the UK economy.

She added that more than 50% of women in part-time roles are working well below their ability.

The Equal Opportunities Commission recently said that women were still largely absent in the top jobs at UK firms.

It found that only 10% of directors of the UK's top FTSE 100 firms were female.

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