Call for every school to have full-time careers advisor & better adult education to tackle ‘gender skills gap’
04 February 2009
Urgent action is needed to close a
‘gender skills gap’ which is contributing towards a cost of between
£15 and £23 billion a year in lost GDP, and to encourage more women
of all ages into training schemes especially in traditionally
‘male’ sectors, according to a new report published by the National
Skills Forum (NSF) today (Tuesday 3 February).
According to this new report based
on a seven month investigation, Government, employers, broadcasters
and educationalists should support initiatives aimed at removing
barriers to better training for women. Narrowing the skills gap is
critical to improving the pay and opportunities open to women,
improving economic competitiveness and could form a key part of
plans for economic revival.
Closing the Gender Skills Gap:
A National Skills Forum report on women, skills and
productivity highlights the barriers faced by women wanting to
gain new skills, especially those with children wanting to return
to work and women in their forties or older who have missed out on
training opportunities in the past.
The NSF’s research has found that
despite key sectors such as science, engineering and IT suffering
from a shortage of skilled workers, only just over a third (36.8%)
of science, engineering and technology undergraduates and around 1
in 40 of engineering apprentices are women.
More needs to be done to challenge
young women’s perceptions about traditionally ‘male’ sectors like
IT, to challenge the UK’s long hours culture that unfairly
penalises those with caring commitments, and to make it possible
for women of all ages to develop their skills by making it easier
to balance caring and career commitments through flexible working
Recent extensions to maternity
leave have not been met with similar increases for fathers, meaning
that women take more time out from work than men. This leaves the
way open for employers to promote men ahead of women because they
are less likely to take time off. The Government plans to make
leave transferable, so mothers leave can be taken up by fathers,
but research has shown that this does not lead to significant
increase in the amount of leave taken by men.
The report therefore recommends
that the Government’s expected changes to maternity and paternity
leave include an additional four weeks of non-transferable
paid leave for fathers.
Amongst the 27 recommendations in
the report to tackle barriers to female training and develop an
inclusive training and skills culture are:
- 1. Extending the right to request flexible working to all
employees and removing the need for people to be with their
employer for 6 months before being allowed to request flexible
- 2. Making it illegal for employers that are recruiting new
employees to specify required working hours beyond those for which
the employer can make a clear business case.
- 3. Replacing the current complex childcare funding schemes and
introducing a childcare voucher scheme for all parents of children
- 4. Reversing recent cutbacks and reinvesting in adult and
community learning (ACL) schemes. Over three-quarters of ACL
subscribers are women.
1 of 3 2 of 3
- 5. A trained, full-time careers coordinator in every school to
ensure that young people are not making career decisions based on
traditional assumptions about gender roles.
- 6. Form and subject teachers to receive careers guidance
- 7. A well-funded, specialised careers guidance service for
young people. Current services suffer from limited resources and an
overly ambitious remit that also includes drug and relationship
- 8. The Carer’s Allowance should be available to those studying
for more than 21 hours a week.
- 9. Broadcasters should include positive portrayals of women in
science, engineering and technology in their programming.
Dame Ruth Silver, report co-chair said:
‘We want to
get the clear message across that the gender skills gap exists and
that it’s damaging both to women and the economy. Teachers,
broadcasters, Government, careers advisors and employers all have a
role to play. We have to create a climate in which women can
develop real employment-relevant skills; this means overcoming
negative attitudes to women in science and technology whether
that’s in the classroom or on TV. Equally, Government needs to
energetically promote careers advice services for people of all
ages and provide the necessary financial support to let people
realise their ambitions.’
Gordon Marsden MP, report
‘One of the issues we looked at is the
role that perceptions about job roles play in women’s life chances
and training decisions. There is a need to provide greater access
to careers advice so we can enable young women to overcome gender
stereotyping about job roles and encourage more young women to
start engineering or IT training schemes. With an ageing population
it is equally important to offer training to women who, for various
reasons such as caring for children or relatives, have missed out
on learning opportunities in the past. That’s why the report
recommends that the Government reinvest in adult and community
learning and offer increased financial support to adult learners in
Hugo Donaldson, author of
the report at the National Skills Forum, said:
the 9 to 5 and long hours working cultures are damaging for women
who want to balance work with caring commitments. It is unhelpful
that employers in sectors with skills shortages find it hard to
train and retain women. More needs to be done to foster a flexible
working culture, which will ultimately benefit both individual
women and employers.’
All quotes must be
attributed to ‘the National Skills Forum’.
- ends -
- An embargoed copy of the report
will be made available to selected media.
- The final report will be launched
in Parliament between 16.00 – 18.00 on 03 February 2009.
- Interview opportunities with Dame
Ruth Silver, Gordon Marsden MP and NSF spokespeople are available
by arrangement to selected media before and after the launch.
- There will also be the
opportunity to interview some of the personal case studies of women
featured in the report. Details available on request.
- For print and web journalists, a
rights-free, high res online image gallery from the launch will be
available within four hours of the finish of the launch. To be sent
details, please contact Daniel Golding on 07779 607 887.
About the National Skills
Forum (NSF) www.policyconnect.org.uk/skills
The National Skills Forum (NSF) is a membership body that
provides a channel for organisations working in the kills sector to
come together with parliamentarians and engage in the policy-making
process. Members are drawn from across the business and skills
communities. The NSF is part of Policy Connect.
Policy Connect www.policyconnect.org.uk
Policy Connect provides a bridge between Parliament and
commerce to promote effective policy development across five key
areas: Skills, Environment, Health, Design &
Established in 1995, we work across
the political spectrum, are issue-led and entirely
all media related enquiries, please contact
Daniel Golding, Communications
Manager, 020 7202 8587 / 07779 607 887 (Out of hours number) /
Katherine Chapman, National Skills Forum, 020 7202 8576,