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Britain may be slipping behind in the global race for gender equality

Last year, encouraging figures led analysts to predict that the Government's target of achieving at least 25 per cent female representation on FTSE 100 boards will be met ahead of its 2015 deadline.

But a new report investigating women's representation in positions of power - in politics and public life, including finance, economy, health, education, media, the arts, sport, the law, police and armed forces - suggests that it would be premature to put up the gender-equality bunting.

While modest improvements are being made in many areas, progress towards parity in the UK's democratic institutions is 'painfully slow', according to Sex and Power 2013: Who runs Britain? from Counting Women In. As a result, Britain is sliding down the international league tables at equal 60th out of 190 countries for women in the legislature, down from 33rd in 2001, as other countries leapfrog past, having adopted improvement measures such as quotas.

In business, some countries are implementing alternatives to quotas, such as making gender and board diversity measures a part of corporate governance policy.

In the UK, 17 per cent of FTSE100 board directors are women, and the Cranfield School of Management estimated that this figure could rise to 37 per cent by 2020. Commentators have pointed out, however, that Norway, which operates a quota system, reached 40 per cent in 2008. The EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said it would take more than 70 years to reach equal numbers in British boardrooms.

Acas runs an  Equality and diversity advisory service which can help your organisation identify and implement improvements to your equal opportunities policies, recruitment systems, monitoring and training programmes. Acas also offers guidance on Voluntary Gender Equality Analysis and Reporting, a Government initiative aimed at private sector and voluntary organisations employing around 150 people or more who would like to address issues of equality between men and women but are unsure about how to proceed.

Visit the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more information.

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