Back to school for gender equality

Dr. Neil Bentley, chief executive of WorldSkills UK

Dr. Neil Bentley, chief executive of WorldSkills UK

Young women in the UK reportedly feel that their options are limited by their gender.

Following the ongoing gender pay scandal, a new report is said to show that young women are still not pursuing certain careers usually associated with men.

The report ‘Closing the Gender Gap’ by WorldSkills UK and the Careers & Enterprise Company, which surveyed 2,000 young people and 2,000 parents, is said to make sober reading for anyone believing that true gender equality exists.

  • 56% of young women (aged 17-19) reportedly believe that their gender limits their career options.
  • In contrast – only 37% of young men felt gender limited their options – and were reportedly more confident about their career prospects (77% men – 70% women).

The report is said to find that our young people have more – not less – gender-conservative views of the world than their parents. This is measured in the types of industries and the levels of pay that young people associate with men and women – the drivers of the gender pay gap today. The research is said to have found not only that young women aspire to lower salaries than men – reportedly by around £1,000 – but also that they aspire to considerably lower salaries than their parents believe they are aspiring to.

Dr. Neil Bentley, chief executive of WorldSkills UK, said: “These findings are particularly shocking to me. The report is a wake-up call for all, especially when you consider that the young people interviewed were born at the turn of the 21st century. Showing that progress on gender equality is not inevitable, the findings require us to think more deeply about the influences on young people. We want all young women to have an open mind about their career choices and make the most of the opportunities available. That’s why we are encouraging all young people, their teachers and parents to speak with more employers, for example at the Skills Show, and understand that career choices in this day and age should be about chasing your dreams, not following traditional paths.”

Claudia Harris, CEO, The Careers & Enterprise Company, said: “This research is counter-intuitive. The fact that young women are more gender conservative than their parents is the reverse of what many of us would have assumed. It points to the fact that progress on gender equality is not inevitable and raises tough questions about the influences setting expectations among young people today. The good news is that the research also identifies a clear way forward. Engagement with role models from the world of work raises aspirations among all young people and specifically increases the salary expectations of young women. We are calling on employers and businesses from across England to work with us at The Careers & Enterprise Company to ensure that all young people have the wide range of interactions with the world of work that this research shows is so important.”

The research goes onto confirm that career aspirations showed particular gender disparity with 18% more young men than women wanting to be Engineers and IT Professionals. The research also reportedly showed that these biases are also projected onto others, with young people more likely to direct their peers into careers based on their gender, rather than their abilities and interests.
More positively, the research finds that engagement with role models from the world of work can significantly increase salary aspirations of young women, providing a clear call to action to employers and businesses across the UK.

The full report can be viewed here: