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Women in employment

In the UK, 16.06 million women aged 16 and over were in employment in October to December 2023, according to the ONS UK Labour Force Survey. This means that 75,000 more women were employed than in the year before. The female employment rate was 72.1%, down from a record high of 72.4% in December 2019 to February 2020. The male employment rate was 78.1%.

There were 10.05 million women working full time, while 6.01 million were working part time. 38% of women in employment worked part-time, compared with 14% of men.

In the UK, the sectors with the most women in employment are health and social work (accounting for 21% of all jobs held by women as of September 2023), the wholesale and retail trade (12%) and education (12%). In the health and social work sector, 77% of jobs are held by women, and in education it is 70%.

How much are women paid?

Median weekly pay for female full-time employees was £629 in April 2023, according to data from the ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. This compared with £725 for male full-time employees.

After adjusting for inflation, median pay for women working full time was around 2% higher than its level during the economic downturn in 2008, while median pay for men was around 11% lower.

In April 2023, the gender pay gap in median hourly pay (excluding overtime) between men and women was:

  • 7.7% for full-time employees
  • -3.3% for part-time employees (meaning women tended to be paid more than men)
  • 14.3% for all employees

The gender pay gap for all employees is larger than either the full-time or part-time pay gaps. This is because more women than men are employed part time and part-time workers tend to earn less per hour than those working full time.

How many businesses are run by women?

Of the UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises with employees, 18% were led by women in 2022, according to data from the Government’s annual Small Business Survey.

Men are more likely than women to be involved in ‘early-stage entrepreneurial activity’, which includes owning or running a business less than 3.5 years old. Around 10% of women in the UK economy were early-stage entrepreneurs (PDF) in 2022/23, compared to around 12% of men, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Just over 20% of all new companies were all-female led in 2022.

In January 2024, 42.6% of FTSE100 and 42.1% of FTSE350 directorships were occupied by women. Around half of all new FSTSE100 board appointments were women (47%).

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