Opportunities for women in the labour market have changed dramatically over the past half century. Female employment has risen rapidly but gender inequality at work has been described as “a hardy perennial” – an enduring feature of the economic landscape that has been hard to root out.

Forty-five years on from the Equal Pay Act progress on tackling gender pay and opportunity gaps has been energetically sought and made in many ways. However, sizeable differences in outcomes for women and men in the labour market persist even though girls and women have been demonstrating greater than equal achievements to their male counterparts on a majority of the measures of educational attainment in recent years.

Of the equalities groups (identified around gender, disability and ethnicity for example) experiencing barriers to full and equal economic participation women make up the largest. Women comprise 50.3 per cent of the UK’s population of working age (16-64) and 47 per cent of those in work so women are not a minority group in the available and engaged workforce.

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