MumsnetGuestBlogs (MNHQ) Wed 27-Nov-13 13:04:19

It's time to listen to women about their workplace experience

Despite equality laws, women are still under-represented at senior levels in British workplaces. Opportunity Now, the gender equality campaign from Business in the Community, have embarked on a nationwide research project to gather the workplace experiences of 100,000 women, with the aim of understanding why women’s career progression doesn't match that of men. Here Helena Morrisey OBE explains why the project is so necessary - and how you can help to kickstart change.

Read the blog, and if you can spare the time do sign up for the survey - and please let us know what you think on the thread below.

Helena Morrisey

Project 28-40

Posted on: Wed 27-Nov-13 13:04:19

(53 comments )

Lead photo

Project 28-40 aims to discover the cause of ongoing workplace equality.

Many organisations have been trying for years to address the issue of ‘lost women’ in the workplace, but these efforts have gone largely unrewarded. While the boardroom is becoming more balanced, women are still under-represented at almost all management levels across almost all companies.

First used by Lord Davies in his 2011 report into the representation of women on corporate boards, the term ‘lost women’ refers to those who drop out of the workplace or don’t fulfil early career potential. The problem is a persistent one, and I struggle to explain why. Of course, many women have children just as career opportunities are opening up, but maternity is only part of the story. Women without children also miss out on promotion compared to male colleagues, while some women with children have hugely successful careers. We need a deeper understanding of barriers to women’s success at work - and must then adjust or even scrap what we’re doing if it’s wide of the mark.

Earlier this year, I became Chair of Opportunity Now, the Business in the Community campaign that’s been driving towards gender equality at work for over 20 years. In this role, I am involved in Project 28-40, calling for 100,000 women in the UK and Ireland to tell their stories on a scale never attempted before.

Women without children also miss out on promotion compared to male colleagues, while some women with children have hugely successful careers. We need a deeper understanding of barriers to women's success at work - and must then scrap what we're doing if it's wide of the mark.


We have designed the project to allow women to give candid feedback: we want to hear both good and bad experiences of workplace culture. The campaign will focus on women in the 28-40 age range as this is the ‘danger zone’, when career progression typically slows down relative to male peers. However, Project 28-40 is keen to hear from other groups too: older and younger women and women who have already left the workplace, as well as men. We want to know about the issues that affect your careers, the nature (not just the level) of your ambition, your experiences around maternity, and societal attitudes you have encountered. If you decided not to return to work, we'd like to know your reasons - and whether you'd like to resume your career at some point. If so, what could companies do to make that possible?

This survey’s unprecedented scale will enable us to draw a complete and nuanced picture of life at work for women today and highlight interventions that would trigger genuine change. It’s vital that those recommendations are then acted upon. I’ve been greatly encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response of organisations who are members of Opportunity Now. More than 75 companies and public sector bodies, including some of the biggest employers of women in the country, are actively promoting the survey to their workforce.

The timescale for the project is aggressive: after twenty years of effort based on what we already understand, we’re in a hurry to improve that understanding and accelerate the pace of change. This is an opportunity for women to say what they would like to see improved – so please do sign up. It takes just 15 minutes to complete the basic questions (though feel free to spend longer if you have suggestions that you think would have real impact). The survey, found online here, is open for a month, closing Sunday 15th December. We will launch a report of the headline findings and recommendations in April 2014.

Please spare any time you can to participate - only through your feedback can we better understand the barriers women face and the way to push these aside once and for all.

By Helena Morrisey

Twitter: @opportunitynow1

slightlygoostained Fri 29-Nov-13 10:19:55

Just a hunch, but I suspect it's like that effect where once the time women are speaking in a meeting hits 30%, it feels like 50:50 (may have the exact situ wrong, would love a cite if people recognise this one)...
In other words, in order for both careers to progress equivalently, it has to feel like the woman's career is being prioritised for things to actually be fair.

Wishihadabs Fri 29-Nov-13 13:54:49

Annie in your scenario DH agreed (less secure, less lucrative job). I gave it my all for 2 years while he SAH. Now we both work flexibly. So both our careers are equaly f@#ked.

CailinDana Fri 29-Nov-13 16:25:07

The survey is absolutely atrocious. Who designed it? Did anyone with any knowledge of statistics look it over? It's going to be absolutely impossible to analyse in any meaningful way. Total waste of time.

Annie you have it spot on.

ShreddedHoops Fri 29-Nov-13 19:51:33

Just wanted to say I agree with everything that Annie has written and your scenario is perfect. Well it's not, it's far from it, but you know what I mean.

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