The CBI’s new position paper on gender diversity in the workplace has some harsh words to say to the government, schools and the career development sector about their collective failure to challenge gender stereotyping through careers advice and work-related learning. These damming comments follow close on the heels of Lord Sainsbury of Turville’s remarks in the preface to Good Career Guidance (The Gatsby Report) that “Over the last 30 years governments of every hue … have spectacularly failed to take the actions necessary to improve the quality and consistency of career guidance provision for all young people. It is an appalling history which reflects well on no-one.”
In Building on progress: boosting diversity in our workplaces, the CBI make it clear that while they are focusing on boosting gender diversity and reducing the gender pay gap they are committed to a broad diversity and inclusion agenda that goes beyond any particular protected characteristic.
Early in the report, the CBI outlines four recommendations for breaking down occupational segregation:
- Government must address the careers guidance deficit in line with the recommendations of the CBI and a wide range of other groups including the Women’s Business Council, by funding a nationally mandated, locally-run system to support employer engagement in careers services
- In turn, business needs to step up its engagement with schools to provide inspiration to all students on what they might achieve
- Government should mandate the requirement for young people to take on work experience at Key Stage 4, and encourage girls to think outside the box when choosing placements
- All sixth forms, colleges and universities should set and report against Davies-style targets for female participation in key STEM subjects where there is underrepresentation, such as physics.
This extract from the report explains the CBI’s rationale for making these recommendations:
“Careers advice and guidance must ensure that girls are not being pigeon-holed into specific career routes, and giving support to young women to make the right choices early on will help to close the gender pay gap. Statistics show that 30% of young men receive careers advice on starting an apprenticeship. This figure is reduced by a quarter for women, showing how early gender stereotypes can be embedded through careers advice.4
“Careers guidance in the UK has never been as good as it needs to be – our data shows that only 5% of businesses believe that it is currently good enough and 72% think that advice must be improved.5 Government has given schools a statutory duty to provide advice, but this does not guarantee high quality provision. A more cohesive support service that can harness local business support is necessary. We need government to fund and put in place a nationally-mandated, locally-run system to support employer engagement in careers services. This network could be in schools or shared between them, but it should give a formal framework within which the aspirations and ambitions of young women could be fostered with help that explains a clear path to their goal.
“Businesses need to do their part to support schools with any new careers service – using a revamped approach to share more about working life and the kind of skills students might need so that gender stereotypes are challenged. The Inspiring Women campaign, led by the Education and Employers task force, is a valuable example of a country-wide initiative to encourage women of all different occupations to reach out to female students and share their experiences. We need initiatives like these front and centre in schools.
“Progress is being made. In our 2013 education and skills survey, 85% of businesses who responded now have links with schools and colleges, with 81% of these providing work experience placements.6 These can be an important part of opening young people’s eyes to the world of work, and, for girls, challenging any misconceptions they may have had about certain career paths. But to ensure that all young people get an early experience of the workplace, we need to see the requirement for work-related learning restored to its place in the curriculum at Key Stage 4. Inspiring speakers, work experience, better careers guidance: combined, these steps can help to show young women the wide variety of opportunities and pathways they have open to them and inspire them to pursue these.”
Download the report here