Westminster Business Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Women in the workplace - inclusiveness and safety, career progression and leadership, the impact of COVID-19, and options for the legal framework

Morning, Thursday, 26th November 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will bring out latest thinking on policy and best practice relating to women’s employment and careers, including next steps for improving recruitment and progression, and the experience and safeguards in the workplace.

The discussion at a glance:

Gender equality in the wake of COVID-19

  • the impact - key issues accentuated by the pandemic and how they can be addressed
  • support for women - effectiveness of government initiatives for post-COVID-19 recovery such as the Plan for Jobs, which has been criticised by some for not including provisions for childcare
  • the Employment Bill - the potential of forthcoming legislation to improve the experience of women in the workplace, and options for further measures as it progresses through Parliament

Female business leadership

  • representation - the Hampton-Alexander Review, and examining progress on the aim to increase the representation of women on FTSE 350 boards and in Executive Committee and Direct Reports
  • leadership roles - best practice and lessons learned in increasing numbers of women at the top of businesses
  • moving forward - latest thinking on strategies for improvement:
    • priority sectors - how female senior leadership roles can be increased in particular industries
    • SMEs - issues for smaller companies in achieving gender balance in top positions
  • real progress - the how to ensure the quality and depth of moves by companies to recognise women in senior leadership for their contribution rather than for symbolic value
  • targets and quotas - options for the future

Building workplaces that are inclusive and safe for women

  • intersectional approaches - best practice for supporting women, including those from ethnic minorities, including;
    • inclusive workplaces - fostering cultures that do not disadvantage women, whatever their background or life experiences
    • senior leadership - including improving the representation of ethnic minority women
    • recruitment processes - taking into account concerns over potential bias introduced with increased use of artificial intelligence
    • domestic abuse survivors in the workplace - proposals being reviewed in government on increasing availability of flexible working and unplanned leave, and potential ways for employers to tackle economic abuse
  • harassment and strengthening legal frameworks
    • best practice - the challenges for employers, and examining the EHRC’s advice on how to recognise, prevent and effectively respond to harassment in the workplace
    • legal safeguards and procedures - government commitments on improvements for tackling sexual harassment both inside and outside the workplace:
      • awareness-raising work with Acas and the EHRC
      • development by EHRC of a statutory code of practice and options for new legal duties of prevention for employers
      • consultation on non-disclosure agreements and further protection for volunteers and interns

The background - relevant research and developments:


  • heightened concerns- bringing into sharp focus issues of domestic abuse in lockdown, race inequality, and workplace sexism continuing in remote working conditions
  • the impact on women - concerns that COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting women economically, and workplace gender equality more widely - with women being overrepresented in sectors hard-hit by the economic impact, such as retail and hospitality
  • job losses:
    • The gendered division of paid and domestic work under lockdown study by the IFS - finding mothers in paid work before the lockdown significantly more likely than fathers to have permanently lost their job
    • Childcare, Covid and Career: The true scale of the crisis facing working mums survey by Pregnant Then Screwed - indicating a lack of access to childcare having played a part in the redundancies of almost half of mothers during the pandemic
  • Employers do not have to report gender pay gaps - the decision by the GEO and EHRC to suspend enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines for this reporting year in light of the pandemic
  • Unequal impact? Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact - the Women and Equalities Committee’s consultation for its inquiry

Progress and remaining challenges

  • women on boards - the government announcement that one of the Hampton-Alexander Review’s key targets - women holding one third of FTSE-100 board positions - has been met a year early, but with FTSE-250 companies still trailing behind and indications of far less progress in women at director level
  • non-execs - Cranfield University Female FTSE Board Report finding female non-executive directors on FTSE 100 boards have a significantly shorter average tenure than male counterparts
  • everyday sexism - King’s College London research finding women far more likely to bear the brunt of workplace disrespect, verbal abuse, anger, or being ignored

Policy initiatives

  • The Employment Bill, which is expected to enter Parliament in the autumn and includes proposals for:
    • pregnancy and maternity discrimination - extended redundancy protections
    • neonatal care - allowing parents to take extended leave
    • flexible working - making it the default, subject to consultation and unless employers have good reason not to
  • Sexual harassment and harassment at work - forthcoming EHRC code of practice, with steps employers are expected to take to reduce workplace sexual harassment and how to respond to it
  • survivors of domestic abuse - employment rights and the current government review, looking at enhancing support for domestic abuse survivors in the workplace through measures such as providing flexible working and unplanned leave

The agenda:

  • International trends and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the position of women in the workplace
  • Fair treatment for women in employment - best practice, areas for improvement, and raising awareness
  • Latest thinking on tackling unemployment, improving career progression and growing female leadership - mitigating the impact of the pandemic and reversing widening gender inequality
  • Supporting victims of domestic abuse in the workplace
  • Improving women’s workplace experience - intersectional approaches, fostering inclusive and healthy cultures, countering prejudices, tackling sexual harassment, options for the legal framework
  • Acting on key findings from the Hampton-Alexander Review - current challenges and priorities for the future

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

This conference is no different. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons, and officials from BEIS; the Charity Commission; the Department for Education; the Department for Transport; the DWP; the Foreign & Commonwealth Office; the Government Equalities Office; the Government Legal Department; HM Revenue & Customs; the Home Office; the Ministry of Defence; Ofcom; UKRI and the Welsh Government.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Susan Clews

Chief Executive, Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service

Denise Wilson OBE

Chief Executive, Hampton-Alexander Review

Keynote Speakers

Allyson Zimmermann

Executive Director, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Catalyst

Susan Clews

Chief Executive, Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service

Chiara Condi

Founder and President, Led by HER

Denise Wilson OBE

Chief Executive, Hampton-Alexander Review


Dr Claire Barnes

Organisational Psychologist, Birkbeck, University of London

Siobhan Endean

National Officer for Equalities, Unite the Union

Caroline Whaley

Co-Founder, Shine4Women

Emma Mainoo

Change-Maker and Head, Mental Health Practice, Utopia

Deeba Syed

Senior Legal Officer, Sexual Harassment at Work Advice Line, Rights of Women

Patricia Seabright

Founder, Archimedes Consulting