Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Gender skills gap is ‘costing billions in lost productivity'

A gender skills gap in British industry is costing billions of pounds in lost productivity, a report warned this week.

Urgent action is needed to encourage more women of all ages onto training schemes especially in traditionally male sectors, as well as tackling the UK’s long hours culture, said the National Skills Forum.

The Government, employers, broadcasters and educationalists were urged to support initiatives aimed at removing barriers to better training for women. Mothers wanting to return to work, and older women who missed out on training face the most barriers, it was found.

The research found that despite key sectors such as science, engineering and IT suffering from a shortage of skilled workers, only just over a third of science, engineering and technology undergraduates and around one in 40 of engineering apprentices were women. More needs to be done to challenge perceptions about traditionally male sectors like IT, and to challenge the UK’s long hours culture. Hugo Donaldson, author of the report, said: “Both the 9 to 5 and long hours working cultures are damaging for women who want to balance work with caring commitments.

“It is unhelpful that employers with skills shortages find it hard to train and retain women. More needs to be done to foster a flexible working culture, which will ultimately benefit both women and employers.”

Solicitor General Vera Baird said: “Women get stuck in low-grade part-time jobs, especially after having children, yet the gender skills gap costs the UK economy anything between £15 bn and £23bn a year.

“The Government has already improved maternity pay and paternity leave and extended the right to request flexible working. A further £15 million will be invested to improve career opportunities for women in occupations where they have been under-represented and we will look closely at the recommendations of the National Skills Forum.”

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