Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Northern Europe leads way in female empowerment

April 2013

The Nordic countries again dominate the Women in Work Index, compiled by PwC, the professional services consultancy.  

For the third consecutive time Norway, with a score of 81.3, tops the list. Sweden, which came second and then third in the two previous lists, is the runner-up with 75.2. Denmark is third with 73.9, having previously been third and then second. Finland, scoring 68.8, takes fifth place for the third time running.

In among the Nordics, New Zealand occupies fourth position with 69.7.

The PwC judges assessed 27 OECD countries on the basis of gender wage gap, female numbers in the labour force, the gap between women and men in the labour force, female unemployment figures, and the proportion of women in full-time work.

PwC economist Yong Jing Teow, who wrote the report accompanying the index, said: “Norway leads the pack when it comes to women’s economic empowerment due to its high rate of female participation in the labour force and a low gender pay gap.”

The bottom places on the scale are filled by Japan, with a score of 40.2, Greece, scoring 37.4, and Korea, with 29.1.

The US achieves only 17th position with 58.8, having slid from tenth and seventh in the two previous studies.

Britain is one place behind the US, with 57.3, having fallen from 14th and 13th in the two earlier surveys.

Teow observes: “Women in the UK are struggling against a backdrop of rising female unemployment since 2007, above average pay inequality and fewer full-time employment opportunities.”

Margaret Cole, PwC general counsel and executive board member, says of the UK: “There is no one silver bullet for solving increasing female participation in the workforce. Actions need to be taken from the top of organisations. Businesses should be held to account over their female promotion pipelines and diversity goals.

“Young women want visible and aspirational role models at all levels, and boards should be accountable for providing these.

“Without strong and accountable action from British business, it is hard to see how we can achieve any real change and move past tokenism.”

High childcare costs are a possible factor, says Gaenor Bagley, another executive board member, who is PwC’s head of people. She believes UK businesses could improve flexibility, maximise use of technology and embrace cultural change, leaving behind the nine-to-five mentality, which she blames for forcing many women into part-time roles.

PwC’s newly published survey was conducted in 2011. The two previous surveys were in 2007 and 2000.

PwC | UK & NI Ireland | Equality

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