Zurich Insurance saw a 33 per cent increase in the number of women hired into senior management after offering jobs on a part-time, flexible working or job share basis.

Chief executive Alison Martin said the company, which has offices in Swindon, had taken the step after it was revealed the firm’s gender pay gap was 20 per cent.

“That’s simply too high,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

“We were looking at what’s driving this and we saw there was a significantly greater number of women for whom part time or job share or flexible working is a better solution than men.

“We were trying to make sure we offered as many opportunities for them because, let’s face it, the best thing as a company you can do is have the most diverse and inclusive workforce.”

Since offering more part time, flexible working or job share roles, Zurich had seen a 20 per cent rise in the number of women applying for management positions.

Zurich HR consultant Helen Cholmeley, a mum-of-two from Newbury, told the BBC she’d worked part time since her daughters were born.

“It’s really hard to progress when you’re part time; if you look in any internal job pool as a part time person you’ll rarely find any part time jobs. I felt it kind of hindered my career being part time and I decided it was time for a change,” she said.

“It’s made me realise that actually I could have a long career at Zurich because I won’t be penalised for working part time and I’ve got people to aspire to that do job share.”