WOMEN outnumber men in the Herefordshire and Worcestershire workplace for the first time ever, according to a new survey.

But before females start spouting girl power, the same research also shows they are still struggling to reach top positions and are also being paid less.

The GMB, Britain's general union, has revealed women make up 50.2 per cent of the workforce, compared to 49.8 per cent of men.

In the West Midlands as a whole, however, there are more men in work - with 1,191,362 male employees compared to 1,118,195 women.

And as Dawn Butler, GMB national organiser, points out, there is still a huge difference in the way the two sexes are treated.

"Women outnumber men at work in 99 out of 203 areas in Britain, yet women are paid up to 25 per cent less than men," she said.

"The fact that the gender pay gap is tolerated is now having a negative economic impact in almost half the country.

"Closing this gap is not just a matter of fairness, it is also an economic imperative to enable areas to escape economic decline and stagnation."

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has also confirmed women's career chances are still being "blighted" almost 30 years after the Sex Discrimination Act became law.

A new report by the EOC, Sex and Power: Who Runs Britain? has called for a total overhaul of family policies after providing evidence that women paid a big penalty for being seen as the main home and child carer.

About one-in-five women faced dismissal or financial loss as a result of becoming pregnant and a third of mothers had given up or turned down a job because of caring responsibilities, it found.

"Women now make up over half the workforce and the proportion is growing. Yet our decision makers remain overwhelmingly male," said Jenny Watson, deputy chairwoman of the EOC.

"We can no longer assume that it's only a matter of time before more women make it to the top.

"Without addressing women's responsibilities at home as well as at work, we'll continue to lose out on women's talent - and ignoring the potential contribution that women can make will cost Britain dear in terms of productivity."