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Women and work

Vintage image three women at deskIt’s a tough time for women who want to work. The recession has left many women unemployed, facing redundancy or underpaid.

For a generation of women who were told they ‘can have it all’, it’s a pretty sad state that they can’t just not ‘have it all’ but they can’t have anything close to what they want.

Anna Bird, Acting Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society,an organisation campaigning for women’s rights said:

 “The absence of women from positions of power across the country is especially worrying, given that women today face an uncertain future. The number of women out of a job is now at a 20 year high – more than a million women are now unemployed; at the same time women are facing widening inequality as cuts to public services and benefits bite. “

It’s not just in positions of power where women are still excluded. For many women, just continuing with their careers can be impossible when caring for children or family comes into the mix.

In the UK there are around 12,658,000 working age women in paid formal employment and 40% of them work part-time. For many women, part-time work allows them to achieve a good work-life balance and to be with their families. Yet part-time work is traditionally lower-paid, lower-skilled and undervalued.

The reality is that it’s not just the recession which has made working tough for many women. For many women, having children can mean the end of any meaningful career progression as the long working hours, lack of flexibility and expensive child care can make resuming a career after maternity leave extremely difficult.

Women in their 30s, 40s and 50s are at the vanguard of a new society. The rise of working women coincided with the feminism movement which gathered steam in the late 60’s. By the 80’s, the dream of the ‘Superwoman’ had been unveiled and women were encouraged to reach for a highly-paid career and

Nevertheless, part-time work remains highly sought-after. Employers advertising part-time work in academic institutions find they are overwhelmed by job applicants many highly-qualified who are tempted by school hours and lesser hours.

Here, a spokesperson for the Fawcett Society responds:

“While much has been achieved over the last half a century in terms of women’s rights, we’ve a long way to go. To suggest otherwise is to ignore the overwhelming evidence provided annually by government statistics, independent experts and those who work to tackle inequality, as well as the experiences of women up and down the country.

“Women in the UK typically earn less, own less and are more likely to live in poverty than men. They are under-represented in Parliament, in public life and in boardrooms across the country. It is women who make up the majority of low paid workers, women who do the bulk of unpaid work and women who are most likely to live under the breadline in their old age.

“Unequal pay, far from being consigned to history, remains a persistent and stark injustice. 40 years after the Equal Pay Act, women can expect to earn 15.5 per cent less than men. Some 45,000 women are currently fighting equal pay claims.

“Recent moves to reduce the deficit look set to widen the equality gap between women and men worse. Women now face a ‘triple jeopardy’ of slashed benefits, jobs cuts, and a reduction in the core public services they rely on for themselves and those they care for.

“Far from the fight being over, the fragile gains women have won so far are now under threat.”


According to Office of National Statistics (2008)  40% of working women work part-time.

In the uk there are around 12,658,000 working age women in paid formal employment.

Part-time work is traditionally lower paid, low-skilled and undervalued.


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