LONDON — The number of women in senior positions has declined in a range of categories including the House of Commons, the Cabinet and the judiciary in the past five years, Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission said Thursday. Overall, the report said the trend involves falling back or stalled progress.
“We always speak of a glass ceiling. These figures reveal that in some cases it appears to be made of reinforced concrete,” said Nicola Brewer, the commission’s chief executive. “We need radical change to support those who are doing great work and help those who want to work better and release talent.” The report looked at 25 categories of work, and found that there were fewer women in senior positions in a dozen of them — including national newspaper editors, health service executives, trade union leaders and heads of professional bodies. Representation increased in eight categories, including the House of Lords, company directorships, local council leaders, university vice chancellors and top civil service managers. There was no change in the number of women running media companies, representing Britain in the European Parliament, directing museums and galleries, and holding senior military ranks. “This survey proves that the softly-softly approach towards breaking down the glass ceiling is not working,” said Brendan Barber, head of the Trades Union Congress. “Millions of women and the UK economy are suffering as a result. A firmer approach is needed so that women can reach the top on merit, rather than by having to fight every obstacle that society puts in their way.”