In the news this week, England’s Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to tackle the pay gap between men and women in the workplace and help women into better paid jobs, after a report revealed that girls are being steered towards badly paid jobs. Tony Blair hailed the findings of the report as a “ground-breaking piece of work”. Stating the obvious is what I would call it. We don't need a government report to tell us what we’ve always known that the women workforce in this country are undervalued and underpaid.
Apparently Mr Blair believes that one of the main things forcing women into low paid jobs and undervaluing their talents is the fact that they get poor careers advice at school. His solution is to increase the number of careers "coaches" in schools offering advice about job and training opportunities. I’m not convinced that will solve the problem. A lot of state schools are turning out too many pupils (both boys and girls) that are simply not equipped to work. Maybe this is to do with the advent of the National Curriculum and the fact that many teachers are forced to spend more time completing forms and paperwork rather than spending valuable time in the classroom. Many pupils are lucky if they can write their own name, let alone a job application, when they leave school. In addition Mr Blair’s benefit system doesn’t encourage youngsters to want to work. Many teenage girls prefer to take the easy option of a baby, council flat and benefits, all provided for by the state, rather than working their way up the career ladder. And who can blame them?
In addition the rising costs of childcare in this country make it financially impossible for many mothers to return to work after taking maternity leave, again creating a gap in the skills market. Surely to build up the country and the economy, we should be doing everything we can to encourage new mothers to go back into the workplace.
Women make up a large percentage of the workforce in the U.K. yet many are working far below their abilities with their talents being wasted. It is high time that employers recognised the fact that women have an important part to play in the workplace and their skills are just as valuable, (if not more in some cases), than their male counterparts.