Women and Work: The Facts

Good for Business

The Women And  Work Commission found that unleashing women’s full potential could be worth £23 billion a year to the Exchequer[1]. To put this into context, this year’s central government budget for Education is £28.6 billion[2].

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Women and Work _ The Facts Infographic




There are a number of recent studies that show a link between more balanced gender distribution in a company’s management and its profitability:

  • According to McKinsey, companies across all sectors with the most women on their boards of directors significantly and consistently outperform those with no female representation – by 41% in terms of return on equity and by 56% in terms of operating results[3].
  • In a study of the Fortune 500, Catalyst reveals that companies in the highest percentile of women on their boards outperformed those in the lowest percentile by 53% higher return on equity, 42% higher return on sales, and 66% higher return on invested capital[4].
  • A Danish study found that companies with good numbers of women on the board outperformed those with no women by 17% higher return on sales and 54% higher return on invested capital[5].
  • Thomson Reuters examined the performance of companies with more than 30% women on their board compared with those with less than 10% women on their board, and found that companies with greater numbers of women leaders fared better in periods of greater economic volatility[6].
  • Leeds University Business School reports that having at least one female director on the board appears to cut a company’s chances of going bust by about 20%. Having two or three female directors lowers the risk even more[7].
  • The Conference Board of Canada found that 91% of boards with three or more women directors explicitly take responsibility for verifying audit information compared with 74% of companies with all male directors[8i].
  • Over the course of 2011, companies in the STOXX 600 Index with more than 30% women managers outperformed those with less than 20% women managers by nearly 8%[9].

Achievements: Women in the Workforce

  • Women make up 47% of the UK workforce[10].
  • Eliminating gender discrimination in relation to occupation and pay could increase women’s wages by about 50% and national output by 5%[11].
  • Women’s unemployment is currently at a 24 year high[12].

Women Have the Skills Employers Need

  • 63.6% of girls achieve 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C or equivalent, including English and mathematics, GCSEs compared to 54.2% of boys[13].
  • 57% is the proportion of first degree graduates that are women[14].
  • 50% of those on apprenticeships are women. The number of women doing apprenticeships has risen from 138,000 in 2009/10 to 330,000 in 2010/11[15].
  • 1 in 3 female graduates has a degree in health related studies or education, compared with only 1 in 11 male graduates
  • Only 1 in 5 female graduates has a degree in business and finance, sciences or engineering, despite almost half of graduate degrees being in these subjects[16].

Women and Entrepreneurship

  • 4% of women are engaged in entrepreneurial activity compare to 9% of men[17].
  • If women set up businesses at the same rate as men, there would be an extra 150,000 start-ups in the UK each year[18].

Women are Achieving the Most Senior Positions

  • 17.3% of FTSE 100 directorships and 13.2% of FTSE 250 directorships are held by women[19].
  • 34% of board appointments on FTSE 100 since 1 March 2012 have been women[20].
  • 86 more board seats held by women are needed to reach Lord Davies’ 25% target[21.
  • 7 of FTSE 100 company boards and 67 of FTSE 250 company boards are all-male[22].



  • Over the last decade, 20% more is how much a male graduate could expect to earn on average, than a female graduate. The gap was wider for non–degree holders at 23%[23].
  • The 2012 median full-time gender pay gap for hourly earnings was 9.6%[24].
  • £28,700 was the median gross annual earnings for male full-time employees for the tax year ending 5 April 2012, while for women the figure was £23,100[25].
  • In the financial sector, women working full-time earn 55% less annual average gross salary than their male colleagues[26].
  • An average woman working full-time from age 18 to 59 would lose £361,000 in gross earnings over her working life compared to an equivalent male[27].
  • An estimated 28,000 equal pay claims per year are accepted at tribunals in the UK[28].
  • Research from the CIPD reveals that fair remuneration is the biggest factor employees consider when deliberating moving to a new job, even above job satisfaction[29]. 54% of 2,000 employees say their top reason for wanting to change job is to increase salary and benefits.

Sex Discrimination

  • 10,800 is the number of sex discrimination claims in 2011/12, this was a drop of 41% on 2010/11, when 18,300 sexual discrimination claims were made[30].
  • Sexual discrimination continued to be the most frequent type of discrimination claim received by tribunals during 2011/2012[31i].
  • £13,911 is the average award for sex discrimination claims[32i].
  • £289,167 was the highest payout for a sex discrimination claim in 2010/2011[33].

Work Life Balance

  • There are 2.11 million men and 5.85 million women in part-time employment[34].
  • £7,750 is the estimated cost of replacing a job-leaver[35].
  • 43% of employees believe that flexible working would help them with stress, while 52% believe it would make them happier[36].
  • 62.3 years is the average age of withdrawal from the labour market for women (64.6% for men)[37
  • 33% of those polled in a YouGov survey for Opportunity Now felt that greater flexibility would make them more productive and 43% said that it would help them with stress[38.

Childcare and Care

  • 38% is the proportion of employed women with dependent children (aged 18 and under)[39].
  • 43.6% of mothers (with dependent children) in employment, work full-time.[40]
  • 27.9 years is the average (mean) age of first time mothers in the UK[41].
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of fathers were aged 30 and over[42i].
  • 91% of fathers took time off after the birth but only 29% of fathers took more than two weeks[43].
  • 1 in 5 women aged 45-59 is a carer[44].
  • 5.8% for a child aged under two and 3.9% for a child over two, is by how much the price of nursery care increased by between 2010 and 2011[45], whilst median weekly wages for all employees remained unchanged[46].


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The Women and Work Factsheet

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