An educational group is calling on the government and UK employers to take active steps to provide equal opportunities for women.

City & Guilds says this International Women’s Day (today), there should be more progress for women to access a wider range of high paying and rewarding careers.

The 144 year old organisation has released research which shows that ‘outdated stereotypes’ are holding women back from accessing high paying job opportunities ‘in traditionally male dominated industries’. 

The International Women’s Day theme this year is #BreakTheBias and City & Guilds’ study has found that women are taking jobs in lower paid sectors, instead of those in construction, energies & utilities and transport.

“We know there’s no such thing as “women’s jobs” or “men’s jobs” in this day and age. However, our research demonstrates that women still often favour certain types of job roles over others, largely because of old stereotypes around what jobs are ‘for them’,” says Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO of City & Guilds,  “because they know they are more likely to be able to balance work in these sectors with caring responsibilities, and because of a confidence gap. 

The organisation says that as women are more likely than men to take on caring responsibilities throughout their working live, there must be more flexibility for women to achieve a better work-life balance. Its research has found this is one way of opening more  doors to women. Another suggestion is to make women aware of the opportunities open to them – especially when they are younger. 

“There are plenty of people who think I shouldn’t be working in rail because I’m a woman, but that only encourages me to prove them wrong,” says Bailey Johnson. She is one of the women working in a typically male-dominated industry – rail. 

Bailey is an engineer working for Central Rail Systems Alliance. She said:  “My advice to anyone who wants to work in rail, or any other male dominated industry, is don’t hold back – if you think you can do it, and you want to do it, then why not also prove them wrong. 

“To help more women like myself to follow our passions and progress in our careers, we need greater support from employers and better guidance from an early age to demonstrate the opportunities available to us.”

The Great Jobs research –  explores the attitudes of 10,000 UK working age people towards the essential jobs that keep the nation running – has found that when looking for a new job, 53 percent of working age women prioritise flexibility. Meanwhile, only 38 percent of male respondents cared about flexibility. 

Women are more likely to be interested in careers in typically female dominated industries – such as Education (37%), Health & Social Care (31%), and Retail (43%). These jobs are more likely to be in the public sector, offering part-time roles with flexible hours. 

However, they also typically offer lower salaries. The report also says that across the 10 essential job sectors, women are consistently more likely than men to say that they would not consider a job because they ‘don’t have the relevant skills, experience or qualifications.’ 

This, the report says, highlights the well-known gender confidence gap when it comes to job applications, stemming from outdated gender stereotypes.

Ms Donnelly said: “We desperately need to consider how we can make a wider variety of jobs more accessible and attractive to women by introducing more flexibility for employees and ensuring that women realise that careers in male dominated sectors could be a good fit for them. 

She added: “This will be pivotal to opening up new career opportunities, but it will also create a more diverse, equal and productive workforce – and help employers fill critical skills gaps. We also need to offer better careers advice and guidance to girls from primary school age onwards and give better access to role models of women working in male dominated careers.”