By politics.co.uk staff
A new report published today by a prominent women's rights group calls for greater protection for women from what is "literally a manmade recession".
The report, from the Fawcett Society, argues the recession has created a new imperative for the government to introduce quotas for female representation on boards of listed companies.
"This recession must not be used as an excuse to send women back to the kitchen," said Dr Katherine Rake, the report's author and director of the Fawcett Society.
"In the US, Barack Obama signed new equal pay legislation as one of his first political acts. Voters in the UK, especially women voters, will be looking to the government for similarly bold measures."
The report, 'Are women bearing the burden of the recession?' points to Norway, which - in contrast to the UK where representation is stagnating - has seen women's representation in the boardroom soar from six per cent to 44 per cent as a result of quotas.
There is also data showing women entering the recession in a far more vulnerable footing than men.
A third of mothers use some sort of flexible working arrangement (compared to just under a fifth of dads). Early indications cited in the report indicate that some employers are restricting access to flexible working.
There is also evidence of women being concentrated in vulnerable employment with limited access to employment rights, including redundancy payments: women make up 54 per cent of the 1.4 million workers on temporary contracts and over two-fifths of women are working part-time.
Because women are lower paid and generally have fewer personal savings and lower pension provision they have fewer financial resources to withstand the impact of the recession, the report said.
The impact of lowered interest rates on older women is likely to be particularly severe.
"Women enter this recession on an unequal footing which makes them more economically vulnerable - they are more likely to work flexibly, be in part-time work, on temporary contracts and in low paid work and as a result, they have fewer resources to cushion the impact of downturn," Dr Rake continued.
"We are particularly concerned that new or expectant mothers will be 'picked off' as unscrupulous employers look for a reduction in their workforce."
The report is published to coincide with a roundtable on this topic hosted by minister for women Harriet Harman at 11 Downing Street today.