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UK fail at gender equality in work


PwC, The Fawcett Society, Opportunity Now, women and workThis Index and wider research suggest that ‘flexible working’ could be holding women back.

The PwC Women in Work Index has ranked the UK 18 out of 27 nations based on women’s participation in the labour market.

Having shown improvement by reducing the wage gap from 26 per cent in 2000 to 18 per cent in 2012, the UK’s rate of change remains slower than most other member states in the international Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

This latest report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that while the UK’s ‘absolute performance’ has improved, other countries are improving faster and more significantly.

This was PwC’s second Women in Work Index, and the analysis covered five indicators of female economic involvement: the equality of earnings with men; the proportion of women in work, both in absolute terms and relative to men; the female employment rate; and the proportion of women in full-time employment.

The Index is a weighted average of those five measures using OECD and ONS data.

And PwC said that the UK performs above the OECD average on female participation in the labour force and female unemployment levels, but its performance ‘is negatively impacted due to the low proportion of women in full-time employment.’

‘The UK ranks well below the OECD average on this measure and is in 25 place out of 27 countries.’

Gaenor Bagley, head of people at PwC, said that ‘despite the perception that flexible working helps women, our Index and wider research suggest that it could instead be holding them back.

‘The reality on the ground is that people who work flexibly feel they don’t progress as quickly.

‘The decision to go part-time is often made for short-term reasons, but unfortunately for women it often seems to have a wider, long-term negative impact.’

Bagley goes on to say that the solution lies in culture change.

‘Women need a workplace and society that [gets] the basics, such as how people are assessed and rewarded at work, right.’

Which is what Timewise Jobs campaigns for, saying on its website, ‘It’s our belief that quality part-time jobs, and the high calibre candidates needed to fill them, are invisible in the traditional recruitment market.

‘Our aim is to change that.’

PwC is shortly planning to publish a detailed analysis of the reasons behind such continued workplace inequality in a partnership with Opportunity Now.

Scheduled for release in April 2014, their study, as WVoN reported earlier this year, has involved interviews with 25,000 women and has high aspirations – ‘getting to the root of the problem and coming up with actions that will make a difference.’

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published earnings data in December 2013 that showed the wage gap widening, albeit with figures differing slightly from those from the OECD.

And the Fawcett Society reported recently that ‘the gender pay difference for full-time employees widened to 15.7 per cent [in 2013] from 14.8 per cent in 2012 ‘.

Remarking on this, Charlie Woodworth, from Fawcett, said, “The gap in pay between women and men is a key measure of economic inequality between the sexes.

“News that the gap has begun to widen, after years of slow but steady progress, is a damning indictment of the government’s record when it comes to women’s standing in the economy.”

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