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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Meeting future needs at the FCO

Friday, November 30, 2007

At a recent meeting of the Foreign Office senior management women’s network, Meg gave the following speech.


Over the past 30 odd years much has changed as regards sex equality. For instance, it’s easy to forget that at one time it was accepted that women would not do certain jobs. Or if they did, then it was acceptable to pay them at a lower rate.


The Equal Pay Act made it unlawful for women and men to be paid different rates when they were doing the same work. This was followed by the Sex Discrimination Act, which made it unlawful to treat women less favourably just because of their sex. These led to the breaking down of many barriers to equality in the workplace and in the UK women in employment have increased steadily from 59% in 1976 to its current level of 70%.


Women and girls are doing better than ever in education and certain professions. Many women rarely experience blatant discrimination so it’s easy to think that things are getting better and that they will get better on their own. But there’s still a long way to go before we get true equality.


A few facts tell the story:

  • from my own line of work there have only ever been 291 women MPs there are more than 500 male MPs now,
  • there is only one female CEO in the FTSE 100 companies, and
  • half of women in part time work are working below their skill level.


The gender pay gap for full time work is still around 12% but nearer 40% for part time work. Taken together, the shocking waste of women’s ability and the gender pay gap mean that the UK is missing out on the equivalent of 3% of Gross Domestic Product.


So how does the Foreign Office compare?


  • Women represent 40.7% of total UK based staff, but only 17.8% of the senior management (SMS level) and 31.4% of Band D level. 


The rate of progress is worrying. Using the figures from the last 2 years, it will take us until 2011 to achieve our current target of 25%. It will take us until 2017-2018 to reflect the Civil Service’s female senior civil service target of 37%. It will take us until 2025 to reach equality (i.e. 50% female at the senior level).


  • Only 16.7% or 2 members of the FCO Board of Management are women. This compares with 10% of FTSE100 Directorships being held my women (source: EOC Leading Indicators).
  • The FCO has 260 diplomatic posts, but only 19 or 7.3% are headed up by women.
  • There are only 7 senior management level part-time slots out of a total size of 400 (1.8%).
  • In the UK, 25% of senior management are female (which meets the FCO target) compared to only 12% overseas.


If we are to meet our targets, and I hope go beyond those to achieve greater equity, we have to address current challenges and those of the work force of the future.


The Australian Diplomatic Service has demonstrated that if you set out to increase the number of women then you can do it. They began their programme more than 20 years ago so we have to do some catching up.


Coming new to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office the traditional image of the Ambassador is one of a white male probably in his 50s with a wife who has probably sacrificed her career to his.  And they do exist. But we cannot rely on that model for the future.


Increasingly we have to cope with dual careers. How do we ensure that partners can move around the world and have rewarding careers? What about more flexible working? What about more part time roles?


It’s important to have role models. Both of women who have made it to a senior level and couples who are both managing to lead successful careers with one or both working in the Foreign Office.


As the Minister responsible for diversity and human resources, I am committed to doing more and am pleased that we have already taken some steps. I want to announce two more initiatives.


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has joined the FTSE 100 Cross-Company Mentoring Programme. The Programme involves around 30 FTSE100 Chairmen and Chief Executives acting as mentors to women one or two levels below the main board in other FTSE 100 companies.


The objective is to guide and advise women in the management of their careers, so that they are better positioned to attain executive and non-executive directorships. It has also helped Chairmen identify the barriers that are preventing women progress in their own companies.


James Bevan has agreed to act as a senior mentor to a FTSE100 women executive. We are awaiting details of who our FTSE100 mentor will be.


The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also joined Partnerjob.com. Partnerjob.com aims to help the expatriated partners of its member companies find work in their new location. Its members have joined forces to tackle the dual career challenge.


It provides a database of job openings worldwide, posted by members and affiliates, and, a database of resume/CVs posted by the partners of members’ expatriate employees. Members include the Norwegian MFA, Alcatel, BAT, Chanel, DHL, Maersk, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Shell, the UN and Vodafone. The FCO will become a member and so gain access to job opportunities.


I’d now like to hear from you what you think Ministers should be doing to address the challenges of equality of opportunity and diversity. I’d also like your thoughts on how these issues should be addressed at the next year’s Foreign Office Leadership Conference.   

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