UK markets open in 5 hours 47 minutes

CORRECTED-Should women propose promotion not marriage in leap year 2020?

By Amber Milne, Thomson Reuters Foundation

(Amends incorrect spelling of Tamara Gillan in paras 10, 11)

By Amber Milne

LONDON, Feb 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In a leap year, Feb. 29 is traditionally the day women propose marriage to men - but should women use the extra day to ask their bosses, not their partners, for more?

With businesses offering women planning to pop the question on Saturday everything from free hotel rooms to gold pizza cufflinks, some women think female employees should use the additional day to become co-owners of the firms where they work.

"It presents a great opportunity to encourage women in the profession to change their mindset and actively ask their boss if a partnership is a possibility," said Kerrie Hedley of XLVets, which encourages female practice ownership.

"It's the sort of proposal that will have a big impact on their future and we'd love to see more women take the driving seat," said Hedley, chief operating officer at the network of independent vets.

The origin of why women traditionally propose on leap year is unclear, although some attribute it to an Irish nun who wanted to take the pressure off shy male suitors.

Others say Queen Margaret of Scotland introduced a law in the 16th century which would see men fined for refusing a woman's hand - although there is no record of it.

Several high profile women have proposed to their partners on Feb. 29, including U.S. presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and actress Kristen Bell who proposed on Twitter.

For other women planning to take the leap, Papa Johns pizza parlour is giving away a pair of 18-carat gold pizza-style cufflinks as an incentive and Iceland's Hotel Ranga will offer a night's free stay.

Women currently earn about half as much as men and equality in the workplace is more than 200 years away, according to the World Economic Forum, despite increasing scrutiny of employers around the globe.

"People know about the gender pay gap ... but I actually think that women are still not having these conversations," said Tamara Gillan, founder of The WealthiHer Network, a group of female financiers who help women grow their wealth.

Making Feb. 29 a day when women propose to their bosses, rather than their partners, could give more women confidence, said Gillan, although she stressed that women should feel comfortable proposing a raise on any day.

"Having a moment where we put some focus on it and use this as an opportunity to go in and own your value and propose, I think it's a brilliant idea," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"That's a hugely interesting thing that many organisations would get behind and we certainly would." (Reporting by Amber Milne; Editing by Katy Migiro and Tom Finn. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)