By Umberto Bacchi
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - British companies should hire more women to make up for potential losses in talent and productivity that some fear could follow Britain's exit from the European Union, the head of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Theresa May's government has so far given little away about its Brexit plans.
Several UK-based businesses have raised concerns that the June 23 vote to leave the EU could hamper Britain's ability to attract the foreign talent needed to maintain its development.
To address a potential shortfall in skills, the private and public sectors should focus on getting more British women into the workforce, said Ann Francke, CEO of the CMI, a U.K.-based organization focusing on management training and research.
"Brexit makes gender pay equality and gender balance an even greater imperative," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of a conference in London.
"If the UK doesn't develop a fully enabled workforce, through getting more women into the workforce, it will really struggle to fill in gaps for all the jobs and will absolutely struggle with productivity," she warned.
As of July, almost 70 percent of women aged between 16 and 64 in Britain were in work compared with almost 80 percent of men, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The rate for women was the highest since comparable records began in 1971, partially owing to increases in retirement age, it said.
Many women in Britain are trapped in low-paid, part-time work in which their skills are not fully used, a parliamentary committee said in March. On average women earn 19.2 percent less than men.
In 2015, former Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to end the country's gender pay gap in a generation.
Bridging the UK gender gap in work could add 150 billion pounds ($187 billion) to the British economy by 2025, with 840,000 more women in work, according to a McKinsey Global Institute study published in September.
The extra income roughly equates to annual government spending on education, defense and transport combined, said Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Women Caroline Dinenage.
New regulations requiring large firms to publish details of how much they pay men compared to women, will come into force in April 2017, she said.
"Greater transparency is one of the keys to accelerate progress," Dinenage told the conference.
"Organizations that cling to outdated notions of what are the roles of bread winners and what are the roles of care givers will run the risk of losing their future leaders to rival companies with more progressive policies."
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Katie Nguyen)