Not enough flexible management roles for women, figures show

09 March 2015 -


Polarised job market has left many women taking on part-time and self-employed roles for which they are overqualified

Jermaine Haughton

Women are being forced into lower-paid, part-time work thanks to a lack of flexible jobs at management level, new figures show. While all of the net growth in male employment in 2014 stemmed from full-time work, TUC research has shown that the same can be said for only 47% of the growth in female employment.

In that 47% segment, only around half the new roles were in the management and professional realm with pay between £17.73 and £18.28 per hour. In the other half, women were often forced to take on part-time administration and clerical positions where the pay was much lower – at an average £9.34 per hour. Indeed, in the past 12 months, the number of women working part time in management roles accounted for just 3.3% of the net growth in part-time employment for women.

The TUC says that, compared to the end of 2007, there are 300,000 more women working part time who would prefer to have full-time jobs. Meanwhile, the number of involuntarily part-time workers fell in 2014 at a much slower rate for women (5.5%) than it did for men (11.5%).

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “There is a big divide between women working full-time and those working part-time, and far too many new jobs are in low-paid sectors. A large number of part-time women are moving into sectors like social care and cleaning where wages are low and contracts are often insecure. Unless we create better-paid part-time and flexible work opportunities, far too few women will see any real benefit from the recovery.”

The scarcity of management opportunities has forced many women to go self-employed, which accounted for 88% of net female jobs growth last year – all of which was part time. Hairdressers and cleaners were the most common part-time self-employed jobs for women last year, and typically pay below the living wage.

Andrew Hunter – co-founder of job-ads aggregator Adzuna – explained that women are being forced into positions for which they are overqualified, as there are limited opportunities for flexible management jobs. “There are more than 5.3 million working mothers in the UK,” he said, “and flexible, part-time positions are exactly what many of them want. They enable women to further their careers while spending time with their children – and that is a powerful thing. Allowing a balance between motherhood and having a career increases many women’s happiness, and that is healthy for society. In some countries, the Netherlands for one, part-time work is now the dominant type of labour for women.”

However, he added: “the move to lower-paid positions suggests that there aren’t enough flexible positions going at the top end of the career ladder. Many women are paying for flexibility with a large wage cut, and the increase in women’s self-employment shows an undimmed desire to work at a decision-making level. The key to encouraging flexible working lies in the provision of childcare – which must be affordable, in the right place, and available at the right times – and the provision of flexible contracts.

“We shouldn’t necessarily view part-time jobs in a negative light – rather, we should embrace and encourage flexibility in the modern era. And it makes sound economic sense to take advantage of the skills women offer by offering them flexible positions, rather than forcing them into lower-skilled positions.”

In its recent Management 2020 report, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) noted that flexible working is something that bosses are going to have to give more attention to as time goes on – not less. “Professor Cary Cooper … reported that the number of women applying for flexible working is currently three times the number of men. He also explained that, when men apply for flexible working, they are three times more likely to be rejected. But, with Generation Y entering the workforce in large numbers, employers will have to reconsider their approach to flexible working.

“Neither the women, nor the men, of this generation are prepared to sacrifice their work-life balance for their employers. And it seems that employers have some way to go, since – according to [CMI data] – just 21% have a “very good” or “good” programme to encourage parents and carers to return to work after career breaks.”

Find the full Management 2020 report.

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