Women in Britain are still failing to break through the glass ceiling as only 20% of FTSE 100 boardroom members are held by females but infamous businesswoman, Katie Hopkins, believes this is down to the fairer sex 'legislating themselves out of a job'.
According to the benchmark Cranfield Female FTSE report, launched by Britain's business secretary Vince Cable, while FTSE 100 firms are employing more women in senior positions, the percentages still fall short of the 2015 target of 25%.
Speaking to IBTimes UK exclusively, Hopkins gives us the inside track to the (publicly) unspoken 'cost burden' of employing women and, therefore, how it impacts their chances of securing a top job.
Q: According to the Cranfield FTSE100 Report on women in the boardroom, females only account for 20%. Why do you think that is?
A: The problem with women not moving into senior roles is down to a number things.
Women now have complete equality and, in fact, special treatment in a lot of ways. When women hit a certain age, they have children and then choose not to return to work. Or, if they do return to work, they are working part-time.
This obviously doesn't help and when you're employer and fishing from a shallower pool, this type of behaviour doesn't get you into the boardroom.
Q: So do you feel that quotas, to propel more women into senior or leadership positions, are just giving females more 'special treatment'?
A: Yes. People may call quotas 'positive discrimination' but I don't think it's positive – it's just special treatment at the cost of others.
I'm not a fan of shortlists of women in leadership roles, such as the female only shortlist for political parties.
I also can't stand those job adverts that say 'women applicants are particularly welcomed'. If I was a bloke and I was reading that, I would think 'what's the point in applying if it's more likely a woman is going to get the job anyway'.
This is just wrong. I'd hate to think I got a job because of my sex and that I was at the table for the wrong reason.
We asked for equal terms of employment but somewhere along the lines this changed.
Q: Do you think then the unspoken 'cost burden' of female workers plays a role in less women in leadership positions?
A: This is an unspoken publicly but among all the business leaders I speak to privately, this is a major concern. Privately, they have also asked not to send women to apply for jobs because of this problem.
The public sector can bear the heavy costs of maternity leave but it's absolutely inexcusable for private and commercial companies to bear the burden.
As an employer, if I had a 25 year old woman and a 25 year old guy standing side by side for a job, I would pick the guy every time.
Men have paternity leave but guess what? – they need or want it. Only 20% of men take the full two weeks off.
Women demanded maternity leave but now they have legislated themselves out of the game, so I would say 'suck it up'.
Q: Maternity leave in the UK is comparatively 'generous' compared to our American cousins across the pond. Do you think these are too harsh?
A: I love the US for its employment laws
In America you can hire and fire at will, which is fair enough if there is a downturn and you need to cut costs. It seems harsh but that can really help a company when times get tough.
When I was in the US working and had my first child, I had six weeks unpaid leave. I thought that was great and a wake-up call to how having a child was my own financial responsibility.
Q: Do you think that the UK should start emulating the US then? What changes would you make?
A: I'd love to sit down with the government and look at a list of all the UK employment red tape and axe 10 points from that.
There needs to be more of a balance and it's too far in favour of the employee.
We need to start thinking about how to support the employer and the significant costs they bear when they take on women.
We could reduce lots of government spending if we tightened up on maternity leave which is a year-long holiday.
We've tightened up on everywhere else, including pensions and now we are granting more childcare support.
So let's now balance it out and sort out maternity leave.