Women at work: the industries where women are making an impact

By Mark Wiggins 3 years ago . 7 minute read

The role of females in society and the process of tearing down outdated views is happening faster now than ever, but how is this affecting women in the workplace? The old-fashioned ideals of men and women being designated very different roles are long gone, and the need for change when it comes to career equality and closing the gaps is of strikingly clear.

Business print suppliers instantprint recently carried out some research aiming to gain insight into changes in the UK labour market over the last twenty years. Their study revealed the fastest growing and biggest industries for women, helping to highlight the gender diversity gap.

Which industries employ the most women?

Before looking at industries where women are under-represented, it’s important to take a look at the industries in which female employees are making the biggest impact. Based on September 2018 data from the Office of National Statistics, the education industry employs the largest number of women, with almost 1.9 million females in these roles. This is closely followed by healthcare, an industry which employs 39,000 fewer females than education.

Beyond education and healthcare lie retail, catering services and non-residential social care. These industries all have many similarities and the last 20 years has seen their positions on this list change somewhat. In 1998, retail topped the list of female vocations in the UK and residential care wouldn’t have even made it into the top ten.

At tenth place in the list sits legal and accounting activities. This is the only STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industry in the list and shows clear room to improve.

Which industries are growing for women?

Next up, the research sought to discover which industries were the fastest growing for women in the 20-year period between 1998 and 2018. Analysing these figures makes it possible to see the impact that women have had and are having on the workforce, highlighting some of the positive change that has taken place.

Taking into account both industry growth and the percentage of women making up the workforce, transport support was the number one fastest growing industry with a 340% increase in female employees.

Interestingly, despite only one STEM industry making the top ten biggest industries, computer programming comes in as the second biggest growing industry with an increase of 196%. Further down the list support for finance and insurance also appeared with a 124% rise. This all shows that, despite low numbers at the moment, these industries are moving in the right direction.

Minding the gender diversity gap

Comparing the percentage of females to the percentage of males in the workforce is the perfect way to decipher whether there is true equality in an industry. The research shows the difference between the gender diversity gap in 1998 and 2018, providing more insight into the continued dominance of men in some industries and the improvements being made in others.

Currently, 72% of UK industries employ more men than women. However, there have been positive changes in some over the last 20 years. The biggest change is in the shipping industry, where there’s been an increase of almost a third (31%) and women now make up nearly half of the workforce at 47%.

Wholesale (16.14%), manufacture of fuel (13.89%) and transport support (13.39%) were the next three on the list. Alongside manufacture of fuel, there are also two other STEM industries in the form of manufacture of basic metals and scientific research and development – showing encouraging signs for improvement in STEM roles.

Where are women currently dominating

Despite there being a lot of work to do in order to level the playing field between men and women when it comes to employment, there are still many industries where women make up the highest percentage of the workforce.

Almost level at the top of the list are non-residential social care (80.37%) and veterinary (80.30%), where women make up the vast majority of the workforce. The latter is one of two STEM industries that make this list, with healthcare (78.44%) coming fourth on the list.

Despite these positive signs, further analysis of these results shows that, despite high numbers of female employees, there is still work to do. When it comes to veterinary services, only 25% of the women working in this industry and registered veterinary surgeons, as opposed to 69% of men. The same issues are apparent in healthcare, where only 7% of women are registered doctors compared to 31% of men.

This research clearly shows that the last 20 years have seen the impact of women on the workforce greatly improve in some areas, however it also serves to highlight that there are still many ways in which this can be improved. For the gender equality gap to be truly bridged, employers must make positive steps towards removing any sort of bias and open the doors for women to flourish.

About Mark Wiggins


Mark Wiggins is a writer based in Leeds, England. He writes about a whole host of subjects but specialises in business, focusing on employment trends and workforce motivation.

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