The West Ham vice-chairman also warned that 50/50 equality between men and women in business will never happen in her lifetime, as she addressed a Women in the Workplace summit at Downing Street.
“Childcare is the biggest barrier for women in the workplace because if you don’t have high quality affordable childcare, you are not going to leave your children to go to work.
“Most of us won’t leave our children unless we go into a job that respects us, pays us well and give us the opportunity that we want, and if you put a barrier of quality childcare into that, it becomes even more difficult,” she said.
The Apprentice star told the summit, hosted by chancellor George Osborne, that “more needs to be done, particularly for people who run small businesses,” to encourage more women into work and help them advance into senior management roles.
“Getting schools to open early, so they can drop their children off, getting them to stay a bit later so they can pick them up,” are crucial steps, she said.
Official figures show just 19 per cent of FTSE 100 board-level executives are women, and on average, women are paid around 15 per cent less than men doing the same jobs.
Typically, women in their 20s earn more than men, with women in their 40s experiencing the worst pay gap.
Mr Osborne, who agreed there was “still a long way to go” to achieve equality, said “simple things” would help create a cultural shift, rather than government intervention.
He revealed that his 10 year-old daughter Liberty was furious with him about the lack of women on banknotes, before it was decided that Jane Austen would appear on the £10 note.
Chancellor George Osborne with his two children Luke and Liberty Photo: Allan Bentley
“My 10-year-old berated me for a couple of months about why the Bank of England was not going to put a woman on the banknotes.
“I had a difficult conversation with her, trying to explain why it wasn’t really my choice.
“But thankfully Mark Carney [the governor of the Bank of England] has now put a woman on the banknote in the form of Jane Austen, and I think those things matter.
“They might be small things, but they send powerful symbols to my 10 year-old daughter and many, many others.”
Mr Osborne also spoke of Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg – “not everyone’s cup of tea” – whose book encourages women to “lean in” to get a seat at the business table, or risk being passed over for promotion.
There is a “silent, societal discrimination” over the way women can be treated at work and in their personal lives, Mr Osborne said.
This can lead to a lack of confidence; the number of men asking for a pay rise is double that of women, a recent YouGov study showed.
The Bank of England’s ‘concept image’ for the new £10 note. Photo: Bank of England
Ms Brady, one of Britain’s most powerful businesswomen, said: “We have to take some personal responsibility of the messages we give to women in the workplace, that we give to our daughters.
“I’ve spent my whole career trying to find that balance between my home life and my work life, and I’ve spent my whole life going [between] board meeting, nativity play, board meeting, sports day.
“Most career women begin to understand you have your two personalities, your home personality and your work personality – the absolute trick is not to allow one of those to drain the life out of the other.”
But, she warned: “I wonder how we’re going to change things, because I don’t think in my generation we’ll get to that 50 per cent mark, as much as we might try.”
Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary and women’s minister, urged businesses to sign a government pledge to tackle the gender pay gap.
“Everyone accepts the economic case and we have reached a point where there can be no more excuses,” she said. “It is simply not right that women’s skills are being overlooked.”