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How women in the UK job market are driving positive change

The number of working women in the UK continues to grow; ONS statistics in December 2022 showed 111,294 new members joining the female workforce over the course of the year, which equated to a 0.7% increase.

For a big-picture perspective; from 1997 to the present day, this total rise was 29.07% – equating to 3.5 million more women influencing the way the UK works.

A graph by the ONS showing the rate of female employment in the UK from 1971 to 2022
Image source: ONS Study – Female employment rate (aged 16 to 64, seasonally adjusted)

Which industry had the highest (%) increase in female workers last year?

The UK industries with the highest percentage increase of female workers in 2022
Data Source: ONS Study – Labour Force Survey

The private sector saw an overall increase of 0.97% in 2022, with a total of 10.62 million women working in the market. The female workforce in the public sector was reported at 4.98 million, with a much smaller increase of 0.06%.

Which industries have the most women in the workplace?

The UK industries with the most women in the workplace as of December 2022
Data Source: ONS Study – Labour Force Survey.

Gender equality in the workplace – more women, more influence?

In an ideal world, higher numbers of women in the workplace would equate to equal opportunities. This could involve more fairly awarded promotions into senior-level jobs for women, equal pay opportunities and consequently women holding more leadership positions in businesses across all industries. In reality, this often isn’t the case and gender inequality is still prevalent in industries with a high number of female workers, such as social work and the sciences. 

“In academia, women remain underrepresented among senior scientists, with studies showing they are awarded less research grant funding than men and stand less chance of being promoted. (…) We are seeing a lack of equal opportunity in the workplace driving women out of the research profession.”

Sima Bahous, Executive Director, UN Women, 2022

This imbalance of gender equality in the workplace was encapsulated by Stephen Hicks in his 2015 study on social work and gender, in which he details how professions can simultaneously be labelled as “female-dominated” while a disproportionate amount of their senior roles are occupied by men.

“…to describe social work as “female-dominated” suggests that, merely because they are far greater in number, women hold more power. Yet, this disregards some vital points. (…) the question of how power works within social work institutions, and how this relates to gender, is likely to be a lot more complicated.”

Hicks, 2015

Women in leadership: The FTSE Women Leaders Review

In February of this year, the number of women in boardroom-level roles at the UK’s biggest firms finally reached above 40% for the first time.

“Hitting the 40 percent milestone three years ahead of the target date is a significant achievement; it shows what we can deliver if we work together, towards clear goals and hold each other to account along the way. But we can’t underestimate the ongoing work to maintain this progress.”

Bina Mehta, Chair, KPMG UK

Before we celebrate, the same report by the government-backed FTSE Women Leaders Review also found that below board level, companies were failing to promote women into leadership positions at the same rate. Only 33.5% of executive committee members were women, or directly reporting to women.

Which UK private businesses have the most women in leadership?

For the first time, 50 of “the largest private companies in the UK” were included in the review, and their participation in sharing their data shows positive change is taking place.

Data from the FTSE Women Leaders Review, showing the private companies with the most women in leadership and the overall percentage of female representation
Source: FTSE Women Leaders Review, Page 25

How female entrepreneurs are re-shaping the UK job market

As revealed by 2022’s Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, women are starting a record number of new companies in the UK – over 140,000 last year to be exact, with the number of all-female-founded businesses “growing by over a third each year”.

More tools and organisations are emerging with the shared goal of raising awareness on gender equality, supporting female business founders and making funding more accessible.

The Gender Index is an interactive tool which is making data on inequality widely accessible. In their 2022 report, it was revealed that 66.1% of UK investments went to male-led companies, while female-led companies received nearly six times less (11.9%).

Alma Angels is an angel investor community, which opens communication and support channels for women and men to become investors, and to support female business founders who have no previous network connections.

In total, 134 institutions with an investing power of nearly £1 trillion have now signed up to the Investing in Women Code.

“[The Rose Report] shows women are shattering the entrepreneurial glass ceiling, (…) I’m looking forward to the further progress this year will bring through the Investing in Women Code, Start Up Loans and more.”

Paul Scully, Small Business Minister, 2022

Inspiring female-founded businesses in the UK 


Financial independence for women has not come easy and for many this is still an obstacle. Entrepreneur Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia founded Snoop in 2014 to help women to understand finance and achieve their goals through informed decisions.


Founded by Saasha Celestial-One & Tessa Clarke, Olio is a food-sharing network aiming to defeat food poverty and aid the environment. Tackling approximately $1 trillion globally in waste, whilst making food more affordable for local communities – apps like Olio are vital as the UK faces a cost of living crisis.

Black Ballad

A lifestyle platform which aims to “elevate the voices of black British women through content, community and commerce”, Black Ballad was founded by Tobi Oredein and Bola Awoniyi. Their site hosts a wealth of insight, debuting powerful perspectives on culture, art, fashion, health, literature and beyond whilst championing inspirational women.

Work with Distinct

With London firmly taking the lead, the home of our HQ, Nottingham, recently placed 10th in a list of UK locations with the most female-led businesses. We hope that by this time next year, we’ll have come even further. Whether you’re looking to make a career move or for support in your hiring process, contact our Nottingham office today.


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