The increased participation of women in the workforce has been a significant contributor to the British economy.
Figures from the OECD show that, by equalising the labour force participation rates of men and women, the UK could further increase GDP per capita growth by 0.5 percentage points per year, with potential gains of 10 per cent of GDP by 2030.
But there are many areas such as technology, engineering and science where women
are still under-represented. There has been a move by the government as well as industry to encourage women into these growth sectors to help the UK reach its economic potential.
“The whole process should start from primary school, right the way through to businesses and leaders giving life stories, hints and tips of what to do,” says Esther McVey, Minister of State for Employment, at the Everywoman Advancing Women in Technology forum. “This push for STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] technology science is the key.”
Everywoman is one organisation encouraging girls from primary school age to get involved in growth areas such as technology. To celebrate International Women’s Day in March, Everywoman in collaboration with Stemettes, Salesforce and Campus London, held a “Hackathon”, to encourage girls and young women to code. Girls aged between the ages of five to 23 were asked to create three networking apps to connect to their friends. The winners were presented with their prize at the Advancing Women in Technology forum. McVey says: “What Everywoman is doing with the Hackhathons for girls is saying coding can be fun.”
According to government figures, only 124,000 (15 per cent) women work in the IT and telecomms professions, 40,000 or 22 per cent of women work as IT technicians and 7,000 women work as IT and telecommunications directors.
The government has also launched a Twitter campaign, #notjustforboys, to encourage more women to take up professions which are traditionally dominated by men.
McVey says: “What we have done for the #notjustforboys campaign is to say, know your options, know what is out there and then you can make a choice and what you can do. Know not just where the jobs are going to be in the future, but where the careers are. Where is the progression, where are the wages? Don’t limit yourself at an early age, but go forward knowing you can embrace this.
“What I am doing in government is mapping out where are those jobs in the next decade. There will be 12 million jobs, fundamentally in things like IT, science and technology and engineering. When we look at the number of girls who are doing engineering – only 7 per cent – that is a vast majority of girls who have not even considered it.
“Throughout the campaign we want to energise young girls and support more women to make the choices that are right for them, and have the security of a regular wage in an industry driving Britain’s growth.”
Although UK women are getting into work faster than any other country in the G7, there are still professions where not enough women are breaking through to the top jobs. It is part of the government’s long-term economic plan for women to make the most of the record number of vacancies in the economy.
Growth areas in which women are under-represented include that of engineering professionals (where only 7 per cent working in this sector are female), broadcast media (20 per cent), graphic designers (30 per cent) and science, engineering and production technicians (where 25 per cent are women).
Although organisations such as the London Stock Exchange and the Royal Society of Chemistry have recently appointed women to their top jobs after several hundred years of history, the country is still waiting for a number of significant female “firsts” in banking, broadcasting and business.