More than half of the UK population are female. Six out of every ten university graduates are women, and women comprise 46 per cent of the economically active workforce. However, they are still under-represented in British businesses, especially among senior management.
From the start, the co-operative movement has led the way in campaigning for gender equality. Data collected for International Women's Day 2016 finds that there are twice as many female directors of the UK's largest retail co-operatives are there are of FTSE companies.
The Co-operative Women’s Challenge, launched in 2011, is a campaign that seeks to ensure women are fairly represented at all levels within the co-operative movement. The challenge aims by 2020 to promote:
- Fair representation in the democratic structures of co-operatives
- More women in senior management roles and
- A wider campaign for gender equality across the economy and society.
Worldwide research has shown that gender balance improves business performance. Inclusive and diverse Board of Directors are more effective and better at controlling risk. Working together, men and women contribute fresher perspectives, more vigorous challenges and broader experience to ensure business success. This is even more important for organisations that are democratically owned and run by their members.
The Women's Challenge is a cross-movement campaign to ensure that women are fairly represented at all levels within co-operative businesses.
"Women in co-operatives need role models and effective support structures as well as access to development support and information." Dorothy Francis, CEO, CASE