Monday 24 October 2016


UK lags on key leadership targets for women, concludes first assessment of UN goals  

Addressing the lack of women in key leadership positions must be a priority for the United Kingdom to meet the challenge of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, according to a new report commissioned by the British Council. 

Women hold less than 30 per cent of positions of power and influence in most areas of senior political life, business leadership, public life and civil society in the UK. 

Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women and Girls in the UK: Meeting the challenge of the Sustainable Development Goals’ provides the first stocktake of gender equality in the UK from the perspective of the UN SDGs– the 17 key goals adopted by world leaders in 2015. 

The report concludes that women and girls continue to lag behind men and boy on key rights, opportunities and well-being in the United Kingdom, while men remain over-represented in almost all positions of power and decision-making. 

The report also highlights that women in the public eye are subjected to higher rates of online abuse than men, and that there is a clear link between stereotyped and sexist representations in the media, and the unfair treatment of women in society. In particular, the arts and media reinforce women’s under-representation.  

Gillian Cowell, Head of Gender and Inclusion, British Council said:  “The lack of an overarching strategic approach for gender equality for the UK, or within any of the nations except Northern Ireland, has emerged as a major barrier to progress. 

“The protection and promotion of women’s equal rights will need to be at the heart of negotiations on any renewed settlement with the EU and any new constitutional arrangements and meeting the UK’s commitments to the SDGs.”

The report assesses gender equality across five thematic areas: power, participation and leadership; education; the economy; justice and violence against women and girls and culture, including arts, sport and technology.  

The UK Parliament, the national parliaments and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and local government are a significant distance from achieving parity. 

In the UK, women work longer hours than men, spend more time on unpaid domestic and caring work, and are less likely to participate in the paid labour force – globally the figure is 50 per cent women and 77 per cent men.  

While there have been significant achievements in women entering professions traditionally dominated by men including law and medicine, there continues to be significant gender segregation among and significantly lower average pay among care workers, compared to the construction and building trade.

Unpaid care work – the bulk of which is done by women - remains inadequately accounted for in state economic policy, rather than seen as one of the integral lynchpins of the economy.

In the visual arts, female artists have fewer solo shows and commercial galleries represent fewer women than men even though 60 per cent of art school graduates are women; 70 per cent of the workforce in museums and galleries are women, yet just 37 per cent of director or chief executive roles are held by women in large publicly funded institutions in England, in Scotland 40 per cent and in Wales 50 per cent.  In television, just 14% of drama credits for director are for women. 

The SDGs aim to end poverty, hunger and inequality, support action on climate change, improve access to health and education, and build strong institutions and partnerships, over the next 15 years.

Read the full report (Embargoed until 24 October 2016, 00.01 BST) here:

For more information contact Peter Hawkins on 0207 389 3061 or

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Using the UK’s cultural resources we make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust.

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