Knowledge Center

Women in the Labour Force in the UK


  • In the UK in mid-2010, there were 31.6million females (50.8%) compared with 30.6 million males (49.2%).1
  • The population of the UK is ageing. Today, 10 million people in the UK are older than 65 years, but this number will increase to approximately 19 million by 2050.2
  • The very old population (those over 80 years of age) will also increase - from approximately three million today to eight million by 2050. 3
  • In 2010 and later, the mean age of motherhood for women in the UK is 29.9 years.4
    • The average completed family size is 1.84 children per women. 5

Educational Achievement

  • The percentages of women receiving degrees drops in relation to men as the degree level rises.6




Labour Force



  • In the UK, women are 32.1% of managers and senior officials.7
  • Women are 77.5% of all part-time workers.8
  • The median weekly pay for full-time women workers was £445.1, while the mean weekly pay for full-time men workers was £538.5.9



Women Board Directors

  • Women hold 15.0% of all director positions in FTSE 100 companies. However, this number is lower for the FTSE 250 companies, of which only 9.4% of FTSE board director positions are women.10
  • Only 20 (6.6%) FTSE 100 companies have women as executive directors of their boards.11



  • 89 out of 100 FTSE 100 companies have at least one woman board director.12
  • Of FTSE 100 companies, 11 (11%) companies have no women board directors, compared to 46.0% of FTSE 250 companies with zero women board directors. 13
  • Half (50) of FTSE 100 boards have more than one woman director. 14
  • Fifteen companies have already achieved the 25% target set by Lord Davies.15
    • Diageo has the highest percentage of women board directors, with 44.4% of their board members as women. 16
    • Burberry has three women directors out of eight total directors, and is one of just three FTSE100 companies to have two women executive directors. Burberry has a woman CEO and a woman CFO.17
    • Pearson has two women Executive Directors and two women non-executives (33.3% of directors are women).18
    • Marks & Spencer also has two women executive directors, and two women non-executive directors, including one recent addition, bringing their share of women board directors to 29.0%.19
  • In 2012, 24.7% of all new appointments to boards were women.20
  • Just one woman – Alison Carnwatch at Land Securities – held the title of Chairman of FTSE 100 companies.21
  • Nine women served as CFOs to FTSE 100 companies. 22

Women CEOs

  • 4% of FTSE 100 companies have women CEOs.23
    • Angela Ahrendts of Burberry24
    • Dame Marjorie Scardino of Pearson25
    • Alison Cooper of Imperial Tobacco26
    • Cynthia Carroll of Anglo American27

Working Mothers, Working Fathers

  • Individuals have a statutory right to request flexible work arrangements if they are working parents with children 17 or younger or disabled children 18 or younger, or those caring for another family member.28 Employers must consider all requests and respond in writing.29
Working Mothers
  • While pregnant, women have the right to paid time off for antenatal care and protection against unfair treatment or dismissal.30
  • Pregnant employees must not be subject to working in a risky environment or being exposed to toxic substances; employers must provide alternative work options.31
  • Women have full rights to take 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave, followed by 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave.32
  • Statutory Maternity Pay is available for qualified women and provides 90% of gross weekly earnings (no upper limit) for the first six weeks of leave, with the remaining 33 weeks at either £128.73, or 90% average gross weekly earnings (whichever is lowest).33
  • In addition, during Statutory Maternity Leave, all employment terms and conditions are protected, and rights and benefits (excluding wages) are to remain the same. 34
  • Women have the right to breastfeed in the workplace, should they want. Upon return from maternity leave, after notification from employees, employers are required to provide "suitable rest facilities" for these purposes. Should employment-related risks exist, they must be assessed and eliminated if necessary.35
  • Should mothers need additional time after statutory maternity leave, they can receive an additional four weeks of parental leave.36
Working Fathers
  • Additional Paternity Leave is new for new fathers, and gives up to a maximum of 26 weeks. In addition, Additional Statutory Paternity Pay is given to those taking this leave while not working during this period.37
  • For fathers who qualify, they receive Ordinary Paternity Leave, which provides them with one or two weeks’ Ordinary Paternity Leave.38


How to cite this product: Catalyst. Catalyst Quick Take: Women in the Labour Force in the UK. New York: Catalyst, 2012.