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This paper provides statistics and analysis on women’s participation in the labour market and in business across the UK. It tracks trends by employment type, industry, occupation, region and country, ethnic group and disability status, as well as the gender pay gap and women leading businesses.  

The data in this paper is from ONS Labour Market bulletins, which are released monthly, and the ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings and BEIS small business survey, released annually. 

Women in employment

In the UK, 15.52 million women aged 16+ were in employment in October-December 2021, according to the ONS UK Labour Market bulletin. This is up 153,000 from the year before. The female employment rate was 72.2%, down from a record high of 72.7% in December 2019-February 2020. The male employment rate was 78.8%.

9.68 million women were working full-time, while 5.84 million were working part-time. Most part-time employment was by women (38%), compared to 13% of men.

The most common sectors for women’s employment in the UK are health and social work (accounting for 21% of all jobs held by women as of September 2021), the wholesale and retail trade (13%) and education (12%). In the health and social work sector, 78% of jobs are held by women and in education, its 70%.

How much are women paid?

Median weekly pay for female full-time employees was £558 at April 2021, based on data from the ONS Anuual Survey of Hours and Earnings. This compared to £652 for male full-time employees.

After adjusting for inflation, median pay for women working full-time was around 2% higher than its level in the financial crash in 2008, while median pay for men was around 8% lower.

As of April 2020, the gender gap in median hourly pay (excluding overtime) for men and women was:

  • 7.9% for full-time employees,
  • -2.7% for part-time employees (meaning women tended to be paid more than men),
  • 15.4% for all employees.

The gender pay gap for all employees is larger than either the full-time or part-time pay gaps. This is because a much higher share of women than men are employed part-time and part-time workers tend to earn less per hour than those working full-time.

How many women are running a business?

Of the UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises with employees, 16% were led by women in 2020, according to data from BEIS Small business survey.

Men are more likely than women to be involved in “total early stage entrepreneurial activity,” which includes owning or running a business less than 3.5 years old.

In June 2020, 37.7% of directors of FTSE100 companies were women. In the FTSE250 (the next largest 250 listed companies outside the FTSE100), 34.9% of directors were women.

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