Minister for Women & Equalities, Penny Mordaunt, recently set out her new vision for gender equality in the UK with the publication of ‘Gender equality at all stages: A roadmap for change. The aim of the report is to tackle inequalities both women and men face throughout their lives and create ‘a fair society where everyone can reach their full potential’.
The Gender Pay Gap
“Despite doing better in education; women are over three times more likely to work part time; are less likely to progress in work; generally work in lower paying industries and occupations; and have lower pensions wealth”
Gender norms emerge early with boys aged 7 to 11 twice as likely as girls to want to be scientists when they grow up. Girls however, tend to outperform boys in STEM subjects at GCSE. Despite this male students are twice as likely to take maths at A level and four and eight times more likely to take physics and computer science respectively. In their early careers women tend to work in lower paid sectors and lower paid roles. This gap increases further and sharply at the point couples have children,with women over three times more likely to work part-time in their later career. These part time jobs tend to not pay as well and have fewer promotion and progression opportunities. These inequalities build up over time with women ages between 55 to 64 less likely to have a private pension.
Drivers of Inequality
The report identifies eight key drivers of inequality, the government plans to tackle these include:
- Limiting attitudes to gender – children’s career aspirations are restricted by gender stereotyping at an early age. Girls are far less likely to continue to study STEM subjects resulting from perceptions that such careers are for men and expectations about masculinity can have a negative effect on men’s social and mental wellbeing.
- Women work in lower paid sectors and are less likely to progress – women are 50% more likely than men to work in low paying jobs. Even in industries where high numbers of women work, men are more likely to occupy senior roles.
- Working age benefits system hasn’t tackled the disadvantages that women and those with caring responsibilities face – under the previous benefit system an estimated 2.4 billion of benefits went unclaimed by eligible recipients including women and those with caring responsibilities.
- Women take more time out of the Labour market to care for children – taking time out can have substantial impact on pay and progression. Of those who are economically inactive due to caring for their home or family around 90% are women.
- Women provide more informal care and unpaid work – women frequently care for children and adults unpaid and one in four older female workers have caring responsibilities compared with one in eight male workers.
- Women face barriers returning to or entering the labour market – for those who have taken time out for care returning to work can be hard, particularly at the level equivalent to their skills.
- Women are more likely to face financial instability in later life – gender pay gap increases with age. In their year of retirement men are projected to have around a 25% higher income on average than women.
- Sustain strong foundations for the future – 20% of mothers said they experienced harassment or negative comments related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer/colleagues and discrimination; bullying and harassment are still regularly reported by women.
Tackling These Problems
The government has identified a number of ways it will act to counter these 8 issues, these include investments in tackling gender stereotypes and programmes to increase women’s participation in STEM subjects and careers. Enhancing the gender pay gap service and supporting organisations to narrow their gap. Making childcare more affordable and supporting employers to provide quality flexible working. Working with cross sector stakeholders to improve outcomes for those with caring responsibilities. Working with the money and pensions service to engage more women and improve women’s financial outcome. Sustaining the UK’s legislative framework to support equality and inclusion in the future.
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To read the full government report click here.