This briefing paper looks at women’s participation in the UK labour market and in business.

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Employment

15.61 million women in the UK aged 16 and over were in employment in October-December 2019. The female employment rate reached a record high of 72.4% in October-December 2019. The male employment rate was 80.6%.

9.31 million women were working full-time, while 6.30 million were working part-time. 40% of women in employment were working part-time compared to 13% of men.

The most common sectors of employment for women in the UK are health and social work (accounting for 21% of all jobs held by women at September 2019), the wholesale and retail trade (14%) and education (12%). 79% of jobs in the health and social work sector and 70% of jobs in education are held by women.

Pay

Median weekly pay for female full-time employees was £528 at April 2019, compared to £628 for male full-time employees. After adjusting for inflation, median pay for female full-time employees was around 2% higher than its 2008 level, while median pay for men was around 4% lower.

At April 2018, the gender pay gap for median hourly pay excluding overtime was:

  • 9% for full-time employees
  • -3.1% for part-time employees (meaning women tended to be paid more than men)
  • 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 a much higher share of women than men are employed part-time and part-time workers tend to earn less per hour than those working full-time.

Running a business

17% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK with employees were led by women in 2015.

Men are more likely than women to be involved in “total early stage entrepreneurial activity”, which includes owning or running a business less than 3.5 years old.

In June 2019, 29% of directors of FTSE100 companies were women. In the FTSE250 (the next largest 250 listed companies outside the FTSE100), 27% of directors were women.

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