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UK – Women face multiple barriers, says Ernst & Young

24 August 2012

The concept of a single glass ceiling is an outdated model and no longer reflects the realities of modern working life for women, according to the results of a poll released today by Ernst & Young.

The survey of 1,000 UK working women between the ages of 18 - 60, revealed that two thirds believe they faced multiple barriers throughout their careers, rather than just a single ceiling on entry to the boardroom.

Based on the results, Ernst & Young has identified four key barriers to career progression for today’s working women. These barriers are: age, lack of role models, motherhood, and qualifications and experience.

The professional services firm says that the barriers aren’t chronological and can be experienced at any time; often several at once; and, while they aren’t exclusive to women, it believes it is clear from the research that employers need to provide better support to help women overcome them.

Liz Bingham, Ernst & Young’s managing partner for people, says, “The focus around gender diversity has increasingly been on representation in the boardroom and this is still very important – as members of the 30% Club we are committed to this.

“But the notion that there is a single glass-ceiling for women, as a working concept for today’s modern career, is dead. Professional working women have told us, they face multiple barriers on their rise to the top. As a result, British business is losing its best and brightest female talent from the pipeline before they have even had a chance to smash the glass ceiling. We recognise that in our own business, and in others, and professional women clearly experience it – that’s what they have told us.”

Ernst & Young’s head of advisory, Harry Gaskell, agrees. He says that the barriers identified in the survey reinforce Ernst & Young’s belief that encouraging and supporting women into senior positions is a talent pipeline issue. As a result, he believes that organisations need to ensure they are supporting women at every stage of their career lifecycle, not just as they are about to enter the boardroom.

To hear a panel of experts debating the issues the study has raised here

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