Three in five employers say gender equality won’t be achieved unless businesses take action, as Young Women's Trust launches new research

Young Women's Trust has today launched new research looking at how employers can encourage more women into male-dominated sectors like engineering, IT and construction. This comes as a YouGov survey commissioned by the charity shows that three in five employers think that positive action is needed to achieve workplace gender equality – but just a quarter have taken steps to improve women’s representation.

The research aims to gain a better understanding of current employer practice and barriers when recruiting women into sectors where they are under-represented. The charity will explore ideas like open days and work experience for women, support with job applications and targets for recruiting women – particularly when it comes to apprenticeships. Young Women's Trust will also provide bosses with guidance on how to implement these measures, as employers say they lack knowledge about what action they can legally take.

Professor Chantal Davies, who is the director of the University of Chester’s Forum for Research into Equality and Diversity and specialises in law, equality and diversity, will lead on the work for the charity. Professor Davies previously headed up a unit within the Equal Opportunities Commission (now merged into the Equality and Human Rights Commission) focusing on the enforcement of equality legislation.

Young Women's Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said:

“The growing skills shortage in sectors like construction and engineering will not be filled unless employers help more young women into relevant apprenticeships. But Young Women’s Trust has found that young women across the country are shut out of these sectors due to issues like gender stereotypes and a lack of support.

"Women still make up just nine per cent of engineers, 11 per cent of the construction workforce and 17 per cent of IT professionals. Instead, women are more likely to go into lower paid sectors, where they receive less training, fewer opportunities and often struggle to make ends meet.

"Young Women's Trust is excited to be partnering with the University of Chester to give employers a better understanding of the action they can take to improve the gender balance in their workforces.”

Professor Davies said:

"The University of Chester is delighted to be working in partnership with the Young Women’s Trust on this project. This is a wonderful opportunity to explore the use of and perceptions of positive action in key sectors in which women have been traditionally underrepresented. 

“Used appropriately and robustly, positive action can provide a vitally effective means of tackling disadvantage and underrepresentation. We look forward to using this research to determine not only effective use of positive action in apprenticeships but also how some of the obstacles to such use can be broken down.”

Young Women's Trust and Professor Davies will be conducting the research over the next six months. For more information about the research and information about how employers can get involved, please contact Professor Davies by email: Chantal.davies@chester.ac.uk