Women hold fewer than a third of the UKs most influential jobs,new figures compiled by ‘BBC News’ have revealed.
Women occupy on average 30.9 per cent of the most senior positions across 11 key sectors analysed by the BBC,including business,politics and policing.
The armed forces and judiciary have the fewest women in top posts – 1.3 per cent and 13.2 per cent respectively – while secondary education has the most with 36.7 per cent.
Campaign group the Fawcett Society said progress was still too slow.
“Men outnumber women by four to one in Parliament and only a third of local councillors are women,” Preethi Sundaram of the group said.
“When we look at the top quarters of power in the political world there are only five women out of 22 Its quite an appalling fact really,” she said.
The European Commission is considering new laws to get more women into the top management jobs. Currently,just one in seven board members at Europes top firms are women.
A public consultation to generate initiatives aimed at redressing the gender imbalance – including mandatory quotas – ended on Monday.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said it was “crystal clear” the issue needed to be addressed.
The Commission will decide in the autumn what kind of measures are needed to make “real progress”,she said.
The UK government has told FTSE 100 companies to have a minimum of 25 per cent of female directors by 2015.
Women hold 16 per cent of directorships at the UKs 100 largest-listed companies. Ten years ago just 7.2 per cent of board members were female.
The government wrote to the Commission on Monday stating it did not support EU action on the issue.
It cited evidence that gender diversity was improving without the need to resort to “burdensome regulation”.
Research by Cranfield School of Management now predicts 36.9 per cent of directors could be women by 2020,exceeding the 25 per cent target.
But Reding said,at the current rate of change,it would take more than 70 years to reach gender-balanced boardrooms in the UK.
“This puts the UK firmly in the same boat as the rest of Europe – progress is being made but it is still far too slow,” she said.
In the coalition government,women hold five of the 22 positions in the Cabinet (21.7 per cent).
Of 121 government ministers,including the cabinet,whips,lords and 13 unpaid positions,17 per cent are women.
Sundaram said the lack of women in the top jobs in politics undermined the legitimacy of decisions being made.
Unless urgent action was taken,she warned,womens representation in Parliament could stay the same or decrease by 2015.
“The lack of women at the top table in politics sends a clear signal to other walks of life that excluding women is acceptable,” she said.
“It is only when Parliament and government are fairly represented that we can hold a mirror up to other areas of life and demand the same,” she added.