Swindon and Wiltshire help South West top the table in Women in Work Index

By Anita Jaynes on 8 March, 2020

There is positive news for the Swindon and Wiltshire area ahead of International Women’s Day (8th March).

The South West has topped PwC’s latest Women in Work Index which ranks UK regions according to female economic empowerment.

It looks at a range of indicators for how well each part of the country is performing in terms of female participation in the labour force and pay disparities between the sexes.

The South West rose from second place in last year’s survey to take top spot this year, based on the most recent data from 2018. Its strong performance is based on having the highest female labour force participation rate and smallest gap in male and female labour force participation rates, as well as the second lowest female unemployment rate.

Heather Ancient, a partner in PwC’s West and Wales region, said, “Getting more women into the workforce and reducing the pay gap are priorities for the UK Government – and the economic benefits for doing so are huge. So it’s fantastic to see the South West performing so strongly in an area that receives ever-more attention from society as a whole.

“Previous studies we have carried out in this area provides evidence for why the South West, along with Wales, has performed strongly. Both have large hospitality sectors and a high concentration of public sector jobs, and both of these tend to have more balanced gender representation at all levels and hence smaller pay gaps.”

While the news is positive for the South West, the research reveals the UK is being outpaced by greater improvements in female employment prospects across 32 other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

Although the UK performed above the OECD average and is second only to Canada when compared to other G7 economies, its current position (16th) has barely budged since 2000 when it stood at 17th position, despite improving its performance across all five indicators.

Jing Teow, Economist at PwC, added, “Although progress has been made across both the UK and OECD, the rate of improvement is still slow, despite the prospect of huge economic gains from increasing female participation in the workforce for both the OECD and UK. Indeed both the OECD and UK could receive massive boosts to GDP amounting to US$6 trillion (£4.63 trillion) and £189 billion respectively.

“But in order for these gains to be realised, businesses and governments need to work together to help get more women into work and ensure that there is a fair and equal pay structure. It’s also crucial that women get the right opportunities to upskill in the face of increasing automation as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Women in technology

On average across the G7, women account for only 30 per cent of the tech workforce, and even fewer women occupy the top echelons of tech companies. According to PwC’s Women in Technology Index, which is part of Women in Work, Canada is the best performing country within the G7 in terms of gender representation and equality in the tech sector, with France in second place.

The outlook is less rosy for the UK. In contrast to the main index, on which it is the second best performing country in the G7 and ranks in the top half of the OECD overall (16th), the UK is fifth out of the G7 in the Women in Technology Index. Its poor performance is driven by its worse than average performance on all indicators except the share of women on boards in the technology, media and telecoms (TMT) sector.

Laura Hinton, Chief People Officer at PwC UK, said, “Technology is front and centre for all businesses and wider society so it’s vital we take steps to make the industry as inclusive as possible. It’s encouraging to see progress being made in opportunities for women across the UK as businesses invest in communities across the country, but more needs to be done.

“Long-term, targeted solutions will be vital in making changes sustainable. We know that, in areas such as STEM, women are under-represented so in order to build and sustain a pipeline of diverse talent, businesses need to work together to encourage girls at young ages through initiatives such as Tech She Can – a programme which inspires and educates young women to get into tech careers.”

Women in Work Index rankUK region
1South West
2Northern Ireland
5South East
7North West
8North East
9East Midlands
10Yorkshire & Humber
11West Midlands
Women in Work Index rankOECD country
4New Zealand
16United Kingdom
20United States
26Slovak Republic