The only FTSE 100 woman chairman has urged employers to allow women to take up to six years off to focus on raising their families. She says retaining the best staff is cheaper than training new recruits.
“Employers have to learn to accommodate you through the mid-life piece,” Dame Alison Carnwath, the chairwoman of the Land Securities property group said in an interview with the Financial Times.
“If you want to spend, say, six years having children and getting them off to school before you come back and do full-time work, [companies] have to look upon it as not wanting to lose somebody.”
The businesswoman says that “It’s much better to keep people in the fold,” both from the economics and from the “continuity of culture”. She is confident that professional HR departments will be able to find “measurable economic benefits” in such a loyal approach.
The suggestion didn't get much support from the leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage.
"If a woman has a client base and has a child and takes two or three years off work, she is worth far less to the employer when she comes back than when she goes away because her client base cannot be stuck rigidly to her."
Dame Alison, who has no children herself, blames financial companies, particularly banks, for being “very bad” at promoting women.
She is proud of changing the gender balance at Land Securities, where about a third of board members are women.
Ms Carnwarth received a damehood in the New Year Honors list for being an advocate of women’s advancement in business.
There are four FTSE 100 companies which have women as chief executives - Royal Mail, easyJet, Imperial Tobacco and Burberry, but only until Angela Ahrendts moves from the clothing company to Apple. However the balance will be soon restored, as Liv Garfield is set to head water company Severn Trent.
Last month the proportion of women on the boards of FTSE100 companies reached 20 percent. The UK government wants it to be 25 percent by the end of 2015.