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The World of Work for Women: Facing Inequality, The Pay Gap and Prejudice



Traditional Gender Roles and An Increase in Women Working Outside the Home

In the early 19th century, most women were homemakers and often seen as less able than men to perform paid jobs. However, this changed in the mid-19th century: by 1970, 50% of single women and 40% of married women were involved in the workforce.


So, what caused this increase in female workers? One reason is that rates of education increased during the mid-1900s, which enabled girls to learn new skills and subjects that were previously taught to just boys. This equipped and encouraged women to get involved in different fields of work.


Another reason was that as technology was advancing, ‘feminine’ job opportunities such as clerical and secretary roles increased, which appealed to many women. Such jobs were also seen as more socially acceptable for women.


Following the more recent but long campaigns for feminism and equality, more women are now in jobs, but face inequality in their pay in comparison to their male colleagues.


The Gender Pay Gap

As stated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the gender pay-gap refers to ‘the difference between average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women as a proportion of men’s average hourly earnings (excluding overtime). It is a measure across all jobs in the UK, not of the difference in pay between men and women for doing the same job.




The ONS shows the gender pay gap has been steadily declining over time, especially in the last decade. However, in 2022, they show that it actually increased to 8.3% from 7.7% in 2021. In 2019, the gap was at 9.0%, but for many women, the decline is painstakingly slow.


In the 21st century, we should expect to have equal pay, but, the gender-pay gap is common and problematic.


However, it is important to note that there are reasons for why the gender-pay gap may still exist.

If we look at traditional job roles for men and women, men are attracted to more physical and demanding roles, such as construction and finance, whereas women are often more interested in fields such as teaching and nursing, which are, most often, less well-paid. This is a crucial factor to consider when criticising the gender-pay gap, as women and men often have different career interests.


Women Coming Back to Work – Easy?

The commitments that women face outside of work can be a reason for the gender-pay gap, either because they choose not to work for a while, or because they can only work part-time or temporary contracts. Shockingly, in some cases, there have been women who have lost their jobs or felt unable to remain in their position after having a baby, such as Inga Dainauskiene, Sarah Rees and Hannah Martin, all of whom felt bullied out of their job positions after having a baby or returning from maternity leave.


Unfortunately, this has happened to many women, and left them feeling anxious, lost, and upset, which suggest that this issue, among others like the gender-pay gap, need resolving, and quick.

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