International Women’s Day celebrates the active role women play in the economics of making the world go round, yet it also highlights that while the plight for female equality is generally improving since the 2000s – there is still some way to go. In the UK conditions for women have improved above the OECD average, yet to the country needs to up its game if it is to reach the green grass of its Nordic neighbours.
March the 8th was International Women’s Day, a day celebrated since the early 20th century and given significance by the United Nations from 1977. It is a day that celebrates love, respect and appreciation for women, as well as giving recognition for women's economic, political, and social achievements. The theme of this years’ day was “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!"
To highlight the work place role women current have in the OECD, and to compare it to the recent past, PwC released its 2015 ‘PwC Women in Work Index’. This index, the third of its kind, tracks the social and economic value placed on women in their workforce empowerment and participation.
The female index
The index itself is synthesised out of a number of different indicators, given different weights to make up the final aggregated total. The gap between female and male earnings is given a 25% weight to the total index; the female labour force participation rate is given weight 25%; the gap between female and male labour force participation rates (20%); the female unemployment rate (20%); and the proportion of female employees who are in full-time employment (10%).
In terms of the overall ranking, Norway is relatively far out in front – coming in with a score of 82.9 in the index, holding the #1 spot for three years in a row; followed by Denmark (77.9) and Sweden (75.0). New Zealand comes in at #4, with an index result of 72.5, bolstered with a low gap in wages (6%). The UK comes in at a distant 14th, near the OECD average, with an index score of 59.6 in 2013.
While the UK hasn’t changed greatly in terms of rank, having been 17th in 2007 and 14th in 2000, the overall index development has been positive. In 2007 it was slightly below the OECD average at somewhere near 50, where today it has landed squarely on the average. In terms of elements of the index, on a positive note the UK’s wage gap has decreased 10% since 2000 from 25% to around 17% (behind the OECD average of 15%). In terms of female participation rates, the UK has a 72% female participation rate in 2013, slightly above the OECD average of 68%.
While the UK comes in close to average on most measures, particularly crisis hit European countries and Japan and South Korea consistently lag behind the average. Korea comes in at 27th, with an index score of 31.2. Italy’s score has fallen since 2007, down to around 40.0. Japan however, while still behind the average is making bounds, up from below 30 in 2000 now around 45.
Dominating the boardroom
As part of the study, the boardroom participation of women was also considered. Recent study from Boston Consulting Group found that companies in the top quartile of board diversity had returns on equity that were 53% higher, on average, than the returns for those in the bottom quartile. In the PwC index Norway was again way out ahead with nearly 40% of members female. Sweden was close to 30% in 2014. New Zealand falls far behind, with around 13%. The UK has improved its board membership diversity from below OECD average in 2013 at around 13% to an above OECD average of around 18%.
PwC remarks on the UK’s performance that “The improvement in the UK’s performance is largely due to the strengthening economic recovery, which has driven improvements in female labour force participation and the reduction in female unemployment.”