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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 January, 2005, 06:52 GMT
In the company of women
By Colette Hibbert
BBC News, London

For some women in London the rise in equal opportunities in the work place is not moving fast enough, forcing increasing numbers to go it alone.

Woman using computer
Up to 177,000 women set up businesses in the UK in 2004
According to a report published by the Mayor of London, on average women in the city earn 25% less than men, compared with 18% less across the UK.

The Women in London's Economy report also revealed that women are less likely to be in employment than men in London and even women elsewhere in Britain.

Another report published last week by the London Business School revealed that 177,000 more women set up businesses in UK in the past year - closing the gap between the number of male and female entrepreneurs.

Dianah Worman, diversity advisor from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: "Whilst work practices have drastically changed over the years, some board members appear to be stuck in the 19th century.

Glenda Stone
Glenda Stone says not enough women are in high-paying jobs
"They must change their image, of an old boys' club, and start representing the present workforce."

Glenda Stone, chief executive of London-based Aurora, a network of 20,000 entrepreneurial women in Britain, suggests it is largely as a result of this gender pay gap that many women decide to start their own businesses.

"There is a huge gender segregation in the labour force," she said.

"The reason for this is mainly because women are still in lower paid jobs such as child care, cleaning and secretarial work.

Website research

"There are not enough women in the higher paying sectors such as finance, law and IT."

In order to ensure that women achieve both equal pay and rights at work, Aurora launched the wherewomenwanttowork.com website.

This allows them to research companies which provide evidence women are paid equally and are offered the same opportunities as men.

But for some women this is not enough and more and more are looking to be their own bosses.

Women at a networking lunch
Women use networks for development rather than survival
But as well as setting up businesses, women are also challenging the old boys' clubs and coming together to form their own women-only support networks.

Sister Snog, a members-only, events-based networking club exclusively for London businesswomen, was launched in May last year by Annie Brooks and Hela Wozniak-Kay.

Ms Wozniak-Kay said: "When Annie and I decided to formally establish Sister Snog, we didn't want to be just another networking club.

"We wanted to have our own individuality. We wanted to be the only Sister Snog, hence the originality in our name."

Network change

The group holds business breakfasts, lunches and dinners at exclusive venues in central London.

There are now more than 100 women's networking groups in London.

Some corporate networks exist for women within one company or workplace, such as women working in certain City banks, whilst others operate as industry or cross-industry groups, such as women in engineering or journalism.

But the purpose of the women's network appears to have changed.

In this modern fast-paced world that we live in it is ridiculous that the gap between how much men and women earn is huge
Aurora's Glenda Stone
Whereas 20 years ago it was more about survival, most women's networks now appear to be mainly for professional development.

But the gender pay gap is still evident.

In order to address this, the government's Women and Equality Unit has introduced a number of measures including making it easier for women and men to take up equal pay claims by simplifying and speeding up existing tribunal procedures.

Later this year a Women and Work Commission, created last July to examine the problems of the gender pay gap and other issues affecting women's employment, will report to the prime minister.

'Future is bleak'

According to the Women in London's economy report London's output would be raised by almost 1.5bn-a-year if the proportion of women with dependent children in the city in part-time employment was raised to the average national level.

Aurora's Ms Stone says: "The future for working women and their pay is bleak.

"In this modern fast-paced world that we live in it is ridiculous that the gap between how much men and women earn is huge.

"I can see it being a long time before women are paid what they are worth."

British women close business gap
21 Jan 05 |  Business
Women take on 'Old Boy network'
22 Apr 04 |  Business

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