Women in the workplace: A look at female employment in the UK

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Women in the workplace: A look at female employment in the UK

International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate the achievements of women across the world but it is also a time to acknowledge the discrimination that women continue to face in the workplace and beyond.


In the UK, the sectors with the most women in employment are health and social work (for 21% of all jobs held by women as of September 2022), the wholesale and retail trade (13%) and education (12%), according to the latest report by Office for National Statistics. In the health and social work sector, 77% of jobs are held by women, and in education it is 70%.


Across these occupation groups, women were more likely than men to work part time. For both men and women, the share of workers who work part time was highest in the lowest-paid occupations. In April 2022, there were 9.74 million women working full time, while 5.92 million were working part time. Most part-time employment was by women (38%), compared with 14% of men.


A higher share of men than women were working as managers, directors or senior officials, with 13% of men in these roles compared with 8% of women. Men were also more likely than women to be working in ‘skilled trades’ and as process, plant or machine operatives. Women were more likely than men to be working in administrative and secretarial occupations; caring, leisure and other services occupations; and in sales and customer service occupations


study made by Ciphr found that around two-thirds (65%) of professions with a predominantly female workforce (where over 60% of workers are women) have gender pay gaps in favour of men – which means men are paid more per hour on average. Only 2% have no reported pay gaps, and a third have gender pay gaps in favour of women.


The Equality Act was first introduced in 1970, and prohibited less favourable treatment between men and women, in terms of pay. Despite the Equal Pay Act's 50-year legacy, the gender pay gap remains a key barrier to workplace equality. From 2020-2021, the UK’s gender pay gap rose from 14.9% to 15.4%, according to the latest employee earnings from the Office for National Statistics.


PwC's Women in Work Index 2023 shows progress towards gender equality at work across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been exceedingly slow over the last 10 years, and if progress towards gender equality at work continues at its historical rate, an 18-year-old woman starting work today will not see pay equality in her working lifetime. 


Moreover, a lack of inclusive flexible working options combined with workplace microaggressions continues to hinder the progression of women in work.


Workforce disparities and burnout among women are still very much alive, thus resulting in a lack of job satisfaction. Women aren’t getting enough support from their employers. According to research from McKinsey & Co, "four in ten women have considered leaving their company or switching jobs."


The research shows that 6% of young women prioritize flexibility in the workplace, and 68% believe that commitment to employee wellbeing is more important than other factors. 61% of women are interested in mainly working remotely compared to 50% of men. Women who work primarily remotely experience fewer microaggressions than those who work hybrid or on-site. The rates are 19%, 24%, and 29%, respectively.


Gender inequality has serious implications for individuals and businesses, demonstrating the necessity of equality for societies and economies to thrive. Yet, it will take 132 years to close the global gender gap - up from 100 years pre-pandemic, according to The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2022.


Research shows that workplace inequality affects not only individuals but has a bearing on the productivity and profitability of companies as well. Companies with higher gender diversity on executive teams are more likely to have above-average profitability. Yet, despite the strong incentive for tackling the problem, gender inequality in the workplace persists.

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