A change in male working patterns is needed to enable female employees to realise their potential, according to a leading academic.
Dr Tom Schuller suggests men alter their working patterns to end the gender inequality that prevails among the nation's workforce. Unless men begin to work part-time and accept more lateral career moves women will continue to be under-promoted and underpaid.
Although women tend to outperform men academically and take up more adult education and training, female workers on average earn less than their male counterparts and are less likely to be promoted.
Some 42 per cent of women with a degree had some training during 2009, compared with just 34 per cent of men.
He uses the term the Paula Principle to describe the fact that women are working below their levels of competence, in contrast to the Peter Principle of the sixties, which claimed men are promoted 'to their level of incompetence'.
The Peter Principle is named after Laurence J Peter, who co-authored the 1969 humorous book The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong, along with Raymond Hull.
It states that people are promoted to positions based on their competence in an existing role until they reach a position at which they lack the competence to carry out the tasks required by the role. Once they have reached this level, they are promoted no further.
There are several reasons thought to lie behind the Paula Principle. On the one hand, women may simply choose not to seek promotion. However, a number of other factors, such as discrimination, caring responsibilities, a lack of self-confidence, and insufficient contact with managers, are also likely to play a significant role in denting women's prospects.
"Men need to stop thinking about a career only in terms of continuously moving up a vertical ladder and think positively about lateral moves, perhaps working part-time and, above all, choosing work which uses their competences but does not go beyond them. Not only would the country benefit if that happens, I believe that many men would be happier too," Dr Schuller commented.
He says more jobs could be advertised with flexible hours as a means of combating the inequality.