Tough times for female apprentices


Young female NEETS (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) are quickly becoming the forgotten people of our society, according to a recent report, Totally Wasted? The Crisis of Young Women’s Worklessness. Worryingly these young women are being left behind in large numbers, with diminishing social mobility.

The reports puts the number at around 400,000 young women and claims that many are being pushed towards oversubscribed jobs such as hairdressing and beauty, or worse, left out of training for an average of three years. These are concerning statistics, compounded by the recent rise in female apprenticeships.

Looking at the apprenticeships taken up by females, I am struck at how narrow they are and limited to a handful of sectors. As the report identifies, more than a fifth of all female apprentices train in one single sector, health and social care, resulting in a bottlenecking when it comes to recruitment, with an average of five female applicants for every job in hair and beauty. On the other side of the coin, these young women are greatly underrepresented in the male dominated sectors of science, technology and engineering, signalling that traditional gender stereotyping never went away.

At the heart of this stereotyping is indirect discrimination. The playing field is unequal, as are the results, as shown in a damning statistics contained in the report. By their early thirties, these women will earn an average of only £10,000 a year while the men will earn £21,000. This is unfair and goes right to the heart of equal opportunities.

It seems ludicrous to champion this statement but women excel in business. We should be doing all we can to ensure women not only have the opportunities to work in diverse sectors but, at the very least, proportional representation in the workforce. I hate to generalise good traits – for fear of slipping into the gender stereotyping I am criticising – but in my experience, women make great team players, deliver clear decisions, engaging communication and offer a collective rather than the male-orientated individualistic working culture. Given the toolkit of skills, women make excellent leaders, especially during this challenging times.

Acting on these stereotypes in the workplace is a form of indirect discrimination and could see employees press for compensation, particularly if it unnecessarily isolates or restricts employees or favours once group mover another. My advice is not to let these old-fashioned generalisations distract your decision making as an employer because it could create toxic environments. Stereotypical thinking typically leads to bad decisions. Employers should be challenging gender stereotypes and creating cultures where everyone can succeed and feels valued, irrespective of gender.