Gender equality must be at the heart of the UK’s green and fair recovery, according to a new PwC report that underlines the extent to which women’s career progression and opportunities continue to be disproportionately hampered by the pandemic.
The research based on a survey of 4,000 people in the UK outlines how women are more likely than men to feel the pandemic has damaged their career prospects, as well as highlighting a lack of awareness in relation to the job opportunities presented by the growing green economy.
The report, Targeting Gender Equality, sets out five recommendations that require close collaboration among employers and Government. These include:
Gender equality should be a specific focus within green economy plans – 63% of survey respondents supported investment in green jobs but just one fifth (20%) of women believe they have the skills they need to work in a green job, compared to nearly one third (31%) of men. Only 21% of women say they are aware of the opportunities for green jobs.
Legislative measures to support women in work – targeted careers support for women to access traditional male-dominated industries and more affordable childcare and shared parental leave were among the interventions that people felt were most likely to level up gender opportunities.
Embedding equal opportunities in hybrid working models – three quarters of women want more flexibility on working hours from their employer and greater support on returning from maternity leave.
Measures to boost the confidence of women who are out of work – Nearly one in four (38%) unemployed women say the pandemic has worsened their access to employment opportunities compared to 23% of unemployed men. Around one third (32%) of unemployed women say a lack of confidence is the primary barrier for returning to work.
Greater investment in careers advice services at school – only one in four (27%) women say the careers advice they received at school helped inform their career decisions.
Rachel Taylor, Economic and Business Affairs Leader at PwC, said:
“The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated what were already deep-rooted gender inequalities in the labour market. This research points to a lack of confidence among women who find themselves out of work, and comparatively fewer opportunities for young women starting out on their careers. This is compounded by the physical and mental health burden faced by many of the women surveyed.
“As we look to the future, we must take the opportunity to address these inequalities and this should be front of mind when planning the recovery. With the continuing momentum of the green revolution and the resulting emergence of new industries, policy-makers and businesses must work side-by-side in bringing about a level playing field which will allow women to play a leading role in shaping the future.”
The research shows that women aged between 18 and 24 are more likely to report their job security has got worse (23%) than men of the same age (17%). One in five women with children under 18 say that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their career progression, with 16% of male parents reporting the same.
Women are also more likely to report worsened health, both mental and physical. Young women – those aged between 18 and 24 – are among the most affected, with almost half (43%) saying their mental wellbeing worsened during the pandemic compared to just under one third (31%) of men of the same age.
Dan Burke, Government and Health Industries Partner at PwC, said:
“We can’t achieve the goal of successfully levelling up the UK if half of the population is at a disadvantage from the outset, regardless of where they live. The pandemic has accelerated what were already rapid changes in the world of work but this revolution should be of benefit to everyone. It’s crucial, therefore, that gender equality is placed at the heart of the green and fair recovery plans and this will mean further interventions from both employers and policy-makers.”