UK’s recovery plans must address gender inequality as four out of five women unaware of green job opportunities, PwC report finds

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.

Only 36% of women in the South East are comfortable with their current financial situation, compared with a national average of 43%.

·     One in five women in the South East felt their job security worsened after the pandemic 

·     Nearly a third (32%) of women surveyed in South East said their physical wellbeing also worsened as a result of the pandemic, the highest of all UK regions

·     Nearly half of people surveyed across the UK support targeted career support for women

·     Nationally, one in five women with children say pandemic has hampered career progression

Based on a survey of 4,000 people in the UK, the research 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. 

South East feels more financially strapped

In the South East, women indicated that the three factors which would most improve their quality of life were improved financial stability, better access to healthcare and the opportunity to have a healthy work/life balance. 

Those surveyed in the South East reported the most dissatisfaction with their financial situation than any other region in the UK, with just over a third (36%) saying they were financially comfortable compared to a national average of over 43%. They also indicated that the level of reward on offer was the most important factor when considering an employer (55%), along with flexible working opportunities (50%) and focus on the wellbeing of staff (47%).

Moving forward as a nation

This report 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 (21%) of women say they have the skills they need to work in a green job, compared to nearly one third (31%) of men. More than half (68%) of women say they lacked skills for a green job.

·       Legislative measures to support women in work – nearly half of the people surveyed (47%) support targeted careers support for women to access traditional male-dominated industries with 39% calling for more affordable childcare and improved parental leave

·       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. 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, Government Leadership Partner at PwC, said:

“The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated what were already deep-rooted gender inequalities in the labour market. There is clearly a lack of confidence and opportunities for young women starting out on their careers and the challenges faced by working mothers as well as the mental and physical health burden they’re under. 

“As we look to the future, we must take the opportunity to address these inequalities which 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.”

The citizen poll was conducted as part of PwC’s Future of Government research using PwC Research’s QuantiBus survey and is a nationally representative UK sample of 4,000 responses. The fieldwork was conducted across four consecutive weekends from 9 July – 2 August 2021.

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