It’s International Women’s Day today, which means the spotlight is once again on gender equality and diversity in the workplace. As an employability charity on a mission to end youth unemployment, Street League has a strong viewpoint on how we can improve gender equality in the workplace which begins with getting more young women into employment in the first place, as well as supporting them with the right conditions to sustain their jobs and progress in their careers to achieve their full potential. 

We asked our employees their viewpoints on the issues that young women are facing to get into the workplace and the top solutions which would help to overcome these issues. 

 

Issue: Low confidence and body image 

Solution 1: Confidence building workshops and encouraging physical activity 

Outcome: More young women entering the workforce which is a fundamental issue with gender inequality. 

Young women today, especially those who are unemployed, are struggling with a crippling lack of confidence and self-esteem. At Street League we support young women to build their confidence through engaging with physical activity and sport as well as through discussions on body image and confidence. We also think there is a role for the media to play in taking more responsibility for promoting a healthy body image, as well as strong role models.  

More than half of young women say they did not believe in themselves when they were at school 

 

 Source: Princes Trust Macquarie Youth Index 2017  

Issue: Equality across professions in entry level positions 

Solution 2: Reducing stereotypes and building aspirations from an early age 

Outcome: More women in male-dominated professions to achieve greater equality 

From an early age we need to educate young women on the wide variety of career options available to them, breaking down gender stereotypes and building their aspirations. Specifically, we need to encourage more young women to start professions which will continue to play a larger role in the future of our economy i.e. tech. 

Source: Women in the Labour Market, Office of National Statistics. 

Issue: Home responsibilities preventing career progression 

Solution 3: Equal paternity AND maternity rights  

Outcome: More women re-enter the workforce, progress onto senior leadership positions and maximise their career potential. 

The data are clear – at present women are taking on the majority of the childcare responsibility as well as household chores even when both parents are working full-time. Women are most likely to spend at least a year out of work for maternity leave, more likely to stay home if their child is sick, more likely to leave work early to pick their children up from school, and the list goes on. All of this impacts on a woman’s ability to re-enter the workforce after having children and the ability to progress in her career.  

Until paternity rights are made equal to maternity rights and men are taking an equal share of childcare and household responsibilities then this issue is highly likely to continue. It would also help if the government could support with more childcare to allow re-entry into the workplace after parental leave. 

There have been a number of key policy changes which have already contributed to the increasing employment rate of women including the Equal Pay Act, the Sex Discrimination Act, lone parent income support and increasing the state pension age for women, but there is still a consistently higher employment rate for men, they consistently are staying in the labour force for longer and earning more. We hope that some of these solutions will help to bring a future of greater gender equality in the UK workforce. 

 

At Street League we are passionate about supporting more young women into the workplace – we run sport and employability programmes in 36 locations around the UK designed to support those who need our help the most. We work with young women with various barriers to employment, with the most common being self-esteem, mental health, low or lack of qualifications and caring responsibilities. 

Our vision is a future where women have the confidence and ambition to achieve their potential, and gender stereotypes are a thing of the past. We want the differences and strengths of women to be celebrated and recognised and that all individuals (not just women) are given the respect they deserve.

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