Women in the UK are less likely to be in work, experience lower job security and greater pay inequality than their counterparts in other developed countries, according to a new study.
The UK was ranked 18th out of 27 Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) countries in 2011 on five indicators of female economic empowerment, such as equality of earnings with men, although improvements had been made over previous years, said the report by PwC.
Progress has been slower than other countries and has stalled since the beginning of the credit crunch in 2007, said the research, published on International Women's Day.
The report's author, Yong Jing Teow, said: "It is worrying that the UK's progress in encouraging more women into work and closing the gender pay gap has all but ground to a halt since the recession hit. While most other OECD countries have continued to move ahead, our progress appears to have stalled.
"Norway leads the pack when it comes to women's economic empowerment due to its high rate of female participation in the labour force and a low gender pay gap. Women in the UK are struggling against a backdrop of rising female unemployment since 2007, above average pay inequality and fewer full-time employment opportunities."
Another report, by the Chartered Management Institute, found pay gaps, the wrong role models and lack of self-confidence are among the factors holding back female managers. Chief executive Ann Francke said: "The business case for more women in senior positions is clear. Research has shown having women at the top is good business sense: firms do better with diversity. Sadly, for many organisations, it seems that Wonder Woman is still worth less than Superman."
Only two firms in the FTSE 100 had female chief executives, said the CMI, adding that its research revealed gender pay gaps, the wrong role models and lack of self-confidence were the biggest challenges holding back female managers.
Research among 4,000 UK businesses by workplace provider Regus showed that one in two employers believed working mothers boosted their company's productivity but inflexibility in workplace attitudes and practices was said to be holding professional women back.
Celia Donne, of Regus, said: "The benefits of higher participation of women in the workforce are widely recognised, yet the workforce continues to lose able and trained workers with key skills and qualifications as women find the burden of childcare cannot be reconciled with working life."
Unison leader Dave Prentis said: "Women have borne the brunt of the Government's austerity measures: they've been hit hardest by recession, by Government benefit cuts and, thanks to this Government's ideology-driven attacks to our public services, have seen record unemployment."