Women in the workplace: what's changed in the last 5 years? [infographic]

6 March 2017

Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, we take a look at the modern workplace and the challenges women still face on a daily basis. We also look back over the last five years to see how much, if any, progress has been made.

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The Gender Gap

While many might consider the UK to be forward thinking when it comes to equality, the country lags behind other nations in relation to the Gender Gap, as measured by the World Economic Forum.

Using 14 indicators from health to economic opportunity, the forum rates almost every country. The UK ranked 20th in the most recent report in 20161. behind countries like Latvia, Slovenia, Nicaragua, and the Philippines.

This was actually worse than it was in 20112 when the UK ranked 16th. The UK has dropped consistently since 2006 when it was ranked 9th. Meanwhile, at the top for the past 5 years were Iceland, Finland and Norway.

The Gender Pay Gap

While the gender pay gap has actually reduced, it’s only a marginal reduction from a 9.6% pay gap in 20123 to a 9.4% pay gap in 20164.

Under-representation in some industries One of the most significant reasons women tend to get paid less than men is that they are under-represented in higher paying sectors.

While Government figures5 show women working full time are paid less than men in 90% of sectors, there are a number of key sectors that are making the figures worse. The sectors with the biggest pay disparity are financial, insurance, energy, scientific and technical occupations.

Barrier bosses

One reason women might face ‘glass ceilings’ and gender gaps in the workplace is because of a new generation of so-called ‘barrier bosses’ discovered in a Fawcett Society report last year.

The report defines them as managers in charge of recruitment who are more than twice as likely to be against equal opportunities than the general population.

This group believes they would personally lose out if women and men were more equal. A quarter of this group also believes that a more equal society would not be better for the economy, compared to just 13% UK-wide.

Growing their careers

Starting out on your own in the business world is tough at the best of times. But female entrepreneurs feel they face more barriers than their male counterparts.

An in-depth study by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 20156 found that more than half of all women (52.1%) felt it was harder for them to get a new business started than it is for a man.

The same study also painted a similar picture for women in the workplace looking to progress their career.

It found that 45% of women believe men have better access to professional development and training, 77.1% felt men had better access to jobs, and only 30% felt they were earning the same salary as their male counterparts.

Board level representation

A report by UBS CIO Wealth Management Research7revealed that US companies with a more gender-balanced executive management and board outperformed the broader US market.

Yet a 2016 study by The Pipeline discovered women made up just 16% of executive committee members across the FTSE 350, and women with profit-and-loss responsibility held just 6% of executive committee jobs.

In terms of the voluntary target that Lord Davies set FTSE 100 companies in 2011 (that they should have boards made up of at least 25% women by 2015); only 55% of FTSE 100 companies have met or exceeded this target; 67.2% of FTSE 250 companies have not8.

The government-backed Davies review has now increased the 25% target, saying that a third of all board seats at Britain’s biggest companies should be held by women by 20209.

Family life

One of the main reasons behind women not reaching the highest positions and highest paying jobs is maternity and family life, according to a UBS10.

Things improved in 2014 after the UK Government introduced new flexible working legislation that meant every company had to seriously consider requests for flexible working.

A report by the IPPR11 found flexible work practices can result in higher rates of employment, and better matches between qualifications and job skill level, for women and mothers.

The report says that increasing the availability of part-time hours in high-level occupations is likely to be particularly advantageous to women.


Unbelievably, harassment of women in the workplace is still common in the UK.

The TUC12 found that 52% of all women have experienced some form of sexual harassment. Nearly a quarter have experienced unwanted touching and more than 1 in 10 experienced unwanted sexual touching or attempts to kiss them.

The report has produced a number of recommendations to reduce these shocking figures. In 2013, employment tribunal fees were introduced creating an “insurmountable hurdle for women wishing to pursue a claim of sexual harassment”.

The TUC wants to get rid of this. It also wants the reinstatement of third party harassment legislation, and extending the range of statutory employment rights to all workers, regardless of employment status or type of contract.

Case study: Raising the Bar

In 2016, the Bar Council launched a new response tackling the sexual harassment of female lawyers after its own research revealed the extent of the problem.

The council vowed to make sure chambers properly handled any allegation of harassment through the introduction of a new guide. The guide helped all barristers in appropriately managing their practice and professional relationships with others.

The guide underscores that harassment should not be tolerated in any circumstances and that complaints should be taken seriously. It includes tips and case study scenarios, victim support information as well as advice on encouraging self-reporting of sexual harassment.

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1. Weforum.org “The Global Gender Gap Report 2016” http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2016/results-and-analysis/ (Accessed Feb 15, 2017)

2. Weforum.org “The Global Gender Gap Report 2012” http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GenderGap_Report_2012.pdf (Accessed Feb 21, 2017)

3. nationalarchives.gov.uk “Gender pay gap falls to 9.6% in 2012” http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/mro/news-release/gender-pay-gap-falls-to-9-6--in-2012/ashe1112.html (Accessed Feb 21, 2017)

4. Gov.uk ‘Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings: 2016 provisional results” https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/bulletins/annualsurveyofhoursandearnings/2016provisionalresults#gender-pay-differences (Accessed Feb 23, 2017)

5. Gov.uk “Opportunities and outcomes in education and work: Gender effects” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/opportunities-and-outcomes-in-education-and-work-gender-effects (Accessed Feb 15, 2017)

6. Womenatworkpoll.com “Women at Work” http://www.womenatworkpoll.com/country/?id=united-kingdom (Accessed Feb 15, 2017)

7. UBS.com “On the Road to Parity: gender lens investigating” https://www.ubs.com/us/en/wealth/research/sustainable-investing-on-the-road-to-parity-gender-lends-investing.html (Accessed Feb 15, 2017)

8. Pipelinewomen.org “Women Count 2016” http://pipelinewomen.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/WOMEN-COUNT-20162.pdf (Accessed Feb 15, 2017)

9. CIPD.co.uk, “Lord Davies extends women on boards target to 33% by 2020” http://www2.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2015/10/29/lord-davies-extends-women-on-boards-target-to-33-per-cent-by-2020.aspx (Accessed Feb 15, 2017)

10. UBS.com “Women as a force for economic change” https://www.ubs.com/global/en/wealth_management/chief-investment-office/investment-views/white-papers/31102016-women-in-workforce.html (Accessed Feb 15, 2017)

11. Ippr.org “Women and Flexible Working” http://www.ippr.org/files/publications/pdf/women-and-flexible-working_Dec2014.pdf?noredirect=1 (Accessed Feb 15, 2017)

12. TUC.org.uk “Still just a bit of banter?” https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/SexualHarassmentreport2016.pdf (Accessed Feb 15, 2017)