The great workforce gender imbalance
Just 9% of the engineering workforce is female. In HR, only one-in-five staff is male. There are plenty more examples of professions where gender imbalance is rife. So what is it about these professions that seems to predetermine which gender is most likely to work in it?
Old attitudes, same problems
The problem seems to stem from an attitude rooted in deeply-held beliefs over several generations. It’s led to a gender imbalance in several professions. And it’s detrimental to some industries. Engineering research, for example, thrives on a diversity of opinion and background. Plus, in the wider context, isn’t it better that society’s rough 50/50 split is better reflected in the workforce?
So, is it possible to shake those preconceptions and balance out the workplace?
Resorting to stereotypes
Let’s look at the mindsets that have categorised certain job roles by gender. Take HR: it’s largely a female-led industry. But why? It’s all about the job itself, which is traditionally seen as empathic with a heavier emphasis on social interaction. Previously, these have been thought of as feminine traits, not the problem-solving practical skills of “man’s work” (see the engineering stat above for more). Of course, this kind of thinking appears to be nonsense to most in 2017, but nevertheless it’s a stereotype that’s persisted for an awfully long time.
At the root of the problem is decades-old biases about gender roles. An overnight change to an equal playing field for both sexes is a little way off. But it’s coming.
Betting on success and winning the odds
It’s not all straight-jacketed workplace sexism however. For some women, gender is no barrier to success. Take Denise Coates, Britain’s most successful entrepreneur. The Bet365 boss earned £199 million in 2016, doubling her income of the previous year. That kicks into touch any near rival, male or female. The betting billionaire demonstrates that equality can be earned regardless of femininity. With a hard-nosed approach to business and risk-taking expansion strategies, Coates has soared above the wealth of established billionaires, such as Richard Branson. All without adhering to a stereotype of what constitutes a traditional female job role.
New attitudes, fewer problems
Of course, Coates’ success isn’t exactly representative of the UK as a whole. Unfortunately there still exists a stubborn gender imbalance that permeates UK culture and workspaces. The good news is that attitudes are changing. With the new outlook, a career landscape for gender-neutral opportunities is forming. The very fact that it’s being discussed is a good start. The challenge remains for this to turn into a reality in workplaces across the country.