Business — 23 September 2016

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A pilot programme in the West Midlands which aims to support female undergraduates, and help them close the gender pay gap, has won support from its first ever SME, The Emerald Group.

The SPRINT programme at Warwick University has been launched to help female undergraduates take hold of their professional development to achieve their ambitions, and has already enjoyed widespread support from the likes of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Saint-Gobain. As the initiative starts to gather momentum in the West Midlands, The Emerald Group is encouraging more SMEs in the region to back the scheme.

As the CEO of a technology company, I’m very aware that the profile of females in technology is not great at the moment, so anything we can do to encourage more females to a career in this sector is going to have a positive impact across the region,” commented Sarah Windrum, CEO of The Emerald Group.

If we have a marketing problem with 50 per cent of the population, then we are not going to be able to tap into the skills we need to sustain a healthy technology industry for the future. And it’s not just our sector that is suffering from a lack of females. Manufacturing, construction, and the automotive sectors have a similar problem. If The Emerald Group can work with female undergraduates as part of the SPRINT programme, we can start to help women achieve their potential and give industry access to the skills they need.

As part of its support for SPRINT, The Emerald Group has commissioned a six-week course for female undergraduates, aimed around helping them to build a toolkit for career success. This does not just mean helping female undergraduates develop core business skills, but helping them gain confidence and assertiveness also. The Emerald Group’s course is designed around helping women to learn how to deal with certain situations in business effectively, learn critical negotiation skills and present themselves in the best way.

Official figures from the PwC show earlier this year showed a gap of £5,732, or 24%, in average full-time annual salaries between women and men. Although there is speculation that this closing steadily, it’s not happening anywhere near the pace that many thought it would when the UK announced the Equal Pay Act of 1970.

Sarah Windrum said that it’s a case of equipping females with the business skills and self-awareness, rather than specific skills if we are to encourage more women into male dominated industries.

She concluded: “Skills can be taught and learned quite easily. What we need to do is empower women and demonstrate to them many of the skills they already have which they do not realise. Most women are great problem solvers, and have excellent organisational skills and we need to demonstrate where they can turn these attributed into career opportunities. I’m delighted to be involved in the SPRINT programme and actively encourage other SMEs becoming involved in this great initiative.

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