The 1990 report of the Hansard Society Commission on Women at the Top identified continuing barriers to women achieving senior positions across a range of fields in the public and private sectors, and made far-reaching recommendations for further action.
The Hansard Society Commission on Women at the Top was established in 1988, with Lady Howe in the Chair and a mandate to “identify barriers to the appointment of women to senior occupational positions, and to other positions of power and influence, and to make recommendations as to how these barriers could be overcome.” The Commission focused on the circumstances of women in senior positions since it was thought that change at the top, provided it extended beyond tokenism, would help all women.
The other members of the Commission included leading female and male representatives from business and industry, financial services, the civil service, politics, universities and journalism.
The Commission examined women’s representation across Parliament, public office, the civil service, the legal profession including the judiciary, management, higher education, the media and trade unions.
The Commission’s work included:
- A review of published information about women in public life and employment;
- Interviews with senior personnel in government, business and the professions;
- Interviews with experts in organisations committed to increasing equality of opportunity, including the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Women into Public Life Campaign and the 300 Group;
- Contact with companies known for good practice in the employment of women;
- A survey of employers on their policies and practices towards the promotion of women to senior positions; and
- A survey of companies on the composition of their main holding and subsidiary boards.
The Commission found that there were still formidable barriers stopping women getting to the top: of structures, of working practices, of tradition, and, above all, of attitude.
However, in its final report, published in 1990, the Commission also identified “strong evidence of what organisations can do to break down all of these barriers” and said that it would “take only a small amount of determination to make sure this country ceases to under-use nearly half of its talent.”
The Commission made recommendations for further action by political parties and Parliament, the civil service, the judiciary and the legal profession, businesses, universities, trade unions and the media. Among other recommendations, the Commission said that a Speaker’s Conference should be established in the House of Commons “to consider the ways in which parliamentary and party practices and procedures place women at a real disadvantage”.
Table of contents
- Foreword The Rt Hon Lord Barnett, Chairman, Hansard Society
- Summary of Conclusions and Recommendations
- Part One - Introduction
- Part Two - Barriers to Equality
- Part Three - The Public Realm
- Part Four - Corporate Management
- Part Five - Other Key Areas of Influence
- Part Six - Strategies for Change
- The Constitutional and Legal Framework
- A Survey of Employers
- Women on the Board
- Examples of Organisations in the Private Sector who have taken Equal Opportunities Initiatives
- Organisations that Offer Help, Advice or Training in Equal Opportunities Initiatives
Enjoy reading this? Please consider sharing it
Lord Frost’s appointment as Minister of State in the Cabinet Office to lead on UK-EU relations brings some welcome clarity about future government arrangements in this area. However, it also raises challenges for parliamentary scrutiny, above all with respect to his status as a Member of the House of Lords.
There was controversy on 9 February over whether the government had used procedural trickery to swerve a backbench rebellion in the House of Commons on a clause inserted in the Trade Bill by the House of Lords. Apparently, it was something to do with ‘packaging’. What does that mean, and was it true? The answer is all about ‘ping-pong’.
The contrasting post-Brexit fates of the two Houses’ EU-focused select committees have come about through processes in the Lords and the Commons that so far have differed markedly. This difference reflects the distinction between government control of business in the Commons, and the largely self-governing nature of the Lords.
Before Brexit, mechanisms for inter-parliamentary relations and scrutiny of inter-governmental relations in the UK were unsatisfactory. Post-Brexit, the need for reform has become urgent. There should be a formal inter-parliamentary body, drawn from all five of the UK’s legislative chambers, with responsibility for scrutiny of inter-governmental working.
The end of the transition period is likely to expose even more fully the scope of the policy-making that the government can carry out via Statutory Instruments, as it uses its new powers to develop post-Brexit law. However, there are few signs yet of a wish to reform delegated legislation scrutiny, on the part of government or the necessary coalition of MPs.
Parliament’s role around the end of the Brexit transition and conclusion of the EU future relationship treaty is a constitutional failure to properly scrutinise the executive and the law. As the UK moves to do things differently after 1 January, MPs must do more to ensure they can better discharge their responsibilities regarding the making of UK treaties.