Literature Review on Employability of Women Essay

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Literature Review on Employability of Women

Employability of Women…

Employability in relation to gender, age and race has changed significantly over the years as factors of our society change the way we live and work. As social norms change, so does the spectre of employability. History proves that the employability of women in relation to men has progressively shifted in recent years, as women become increasingly attractive to employers. In the past, it was thought that it was harder for women to gain a job than it was for men, however is this the case in our modern day society? In the past, women have been penalised with lower pay and less hours than men but recent history has stopped these things from occurring with new laws and regulations for employers to follow, such as the Equal Pay Act 1970, which will be looked at in more detail in the review.

This literature review will attempt to analyse the differences in the past, and those which are still apparent today between the employability of men and women. Is it harder for a woman to get a job than a man? Firstly, it will cover the history of employability of women. Then the review will try to discover when things started to change and women started to become more employable. Following this it will discuss the employability of women in today’s society. Lastly, will be a conclusion, in which the findings will be reviewed.

History of employability of women…

Prior to the Second World War, there was a certain stereotype that women were’ housewives’: social roles were clearly defined. A woman’s place was at home, while a man should be at work. It was acceptable for a woman to work outside of the home, providing she did not have a family to look after, but she would have been paid less than a man, even when doing the same job. The Second World War changed everything. As the men left to go to war, the women had to run the home alone, but they also had to get used to going to work.

However, ‘It was understood throughout the war that what Britain’s women were doing was really ‘a man’s job’. So many of them were dismissed from their work once peace was declared… In industries that were not heavily unionised, however, some women were kept on – not least because they were cheaper to employ than men.’ (Harris, 2011). Despite all of the work the women did during the war, they were still not truly appreciated and in fact the ‘housewife’ stereotype was still around in the 1970’s, probably due to the men regaining the majority of the work once returning from the war. This is backed up by the Women and Employment Survey in 1980, ‘The collection of employment histories in the Women and Employment Survey (WES) in 1980 started to break down the stereotypes still around in the 1970’s about women’s careers. The tendency had been to think that a woman’s main role was as a mother, working at domestic tasks.’ (Scott, Dex and Joshi, 2008).

Even though the stereotype had continued into the 1970’s, it was clear that it was slowly fading, the effort put in by the women during the war was starting to be appreciated, and as a result women were starting to become more employable, as shown by the fact that ‘women constituted 29 per cent of the labour force in Britain in 1911, and 29 per cent in 1951, but this had risen to 34 per cent by 1966 and had reached 43 per cent by 1991’ (Crompton, 1997).

In the early 1990’s the rapid increase in the employment of women started to level out. This was largely due to the recession between 1990 and 1992, as the younger, less stable women chose to go back to school rather than seek employment in the recessionary job market. After 1992 though there was a strong economic recovery, which in turn, led to the rise of women in employment, to what it is today.

When did it all start to change?

The gender composition of the labour force has changed considerably in the twentieth century. Before the Second World War over 90 per cent of all men of working age or more were in employment, and that was mostly unchanged until after the War, but since then the percentage of men in employment steadily declined to only 73 per cent in 1991. On the other hand, ‘Women’s employment has moved in the other direction. Up until the Second World War (1951) only about a third of all women of working age or more were economically active. Since 1951, however, women’s employment has been growing steadily, and by 1991 half of all women of working age or more were economically active.’ (Crompton, 1997).

There are a few major reasons for this shift in employability, the first being the Second World War, which went some way towards changing the stereotypes about a woman’s role and making them more employable, as they showed that they were capable of doing the same jobs as a man just as well as they could, if not better in some cases. This has been explained in more detail previously. However, the main reason for the enormous rise in employability of women has to be the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 has had a dramatic effect on the way female employees are viewed and the amount of money they are paid, in relation to men over the last forty years ‘Before 1970, it was common practice in the private sector and some parts of the public sector for there to be separate, and lower, women’s rates of pay… The Equal Pay Act introduced an ‘implied equality clause’ into all employees’ contracts. This had the effect of eliminating separate lower women’s rates of pay… women’s average earnings compared to men’s rose by 5%, from 72% to 77%, over a 5 year period in the 1970s – the biggest ever increase in this ratio.’ (Hastings).

This was not the only change the Equal Pay Act 1970 caused. The Act also led to the use of job evaluation being used for more frequently, this is where you compare different jobs in order to put them into a rank order based on the difficulty of the work, this would then be the basis for the employees grading and pay, and not the fact that they were a male or female. There were other effects of the Act as well, such as that of the effect on collective bargaining. Over the years there have been many changes in technology and the way businesses are run which has led to the old collective bargaining arrangements becoming out-dated, but it is not only because of the changes in technology, equal pay legislation has also had an impact. Due to these factors, collective bargaining arrangements in many organisations have been harmonised.

Employability of women in today’s society…

Since the Equal Pay Act was passed, the gap between the average hourly pay of men and that of women has drastically decreased. However, ‘It is 40 years since the Equal Pay Act and yet women working full-time in the UK are still paid on average 15.5% less per hour than men… That is one of the biggest gaps in the European Union and Britain appears to be becoming a tougher place still for women to work. The recession has seen many part-time jobs go; the majority of such jobs are held by women. Over the last 12 months, 4.5% of the female workforce experienced redundancy compared with just 3% of men.’ (Allen, 2011), illustrating that despite the vast increase in the employability of women, a difference still exists today, albeit a considerably smaller one.

In today’s society, it has been shown that girls remain in education for longer than boys, and also achieve higher grades. This could help to further explain why women are far more employable now than they have been in the past, and this trend only looks to continue in the future. Yet, the reason for the rise in employability of women today is it not only due to the laws that have been imposed; it is also due to the change in status of women in today’s society. As, women have become more powerful, it is clear that businesses should employ more women and treat them equally to their male workers, if not only to protect themselves from law suits, then to enhance the reputation and customer base of their business and reap the reap the rewards financially. ‘Research in Europe and the United States suggests… that companies with several senior-level women tend to perform better financially.’ (Georges, Sandrine, Mary C., 2008).


By looking through the history and changes of female employability and at what it is like today, you can clearly see how society has gradually changed their views from the sexist view that was adopted by men, and some women, before the Second World War, to the very much equal society we have today. However, is it really equal in today’s society? The research shows, that despite the colossal rise in the employability of women and slight decline in the employability of men, there are still some differences, for example the fact that ‘…women working full-time in the UK are still paid on average 15.5% less per hour than men…’ (Allen, 2011), this is not acceptable, but unfortunately there may always be a difference, even if it is a very slight one.


Allen, K. (2011) ‘Women look away now: you are working for free’ The Guardian, 4th November 2011 [Online] <> [Accessed 14 November 2011]

Crompton, R. (1997) Women and Work in Modern Britain. 2nd Impression Edition, Oxford: OUP Oxford

Desvaux, G., Devillard-Hoellinger, S., Meaney, M. (2008) A business case for women. Mckinsey Quarterly. Issue 4, p26-33

Harris, C. (2011) ‘Women Under Fire in World War Two’ BBC, 17th February 2011 [Online] <> [Accessed 14 November 2011]

Hastings, S. ‘The Equal Pay Act: It’s Impact on Collective Bargaining, Grading and Pay’ [Online] <> [Accessed 14 November 2011]

Scott, J., Dex, S., Joshi, H. (2009) ‘Women and Employment: Changing Lives and New Challenges’. Edward Edgar Publishing Ltd

Reflective Report…
How I found Literature Review.

My first thoughts when being set this assignment were ones of panic and anxiety. I was a little apprehensive of how to approach it as I was unsure about what it consisted of, and how to go about writing it. This concern was increased as it was the first assignment I have been set since joining the university so I was not sure whether it would be up to the standards of the university. As I started to get into the review, it started to become easier, although, I did still have trouble with the referencing, and was uncertain of the best way to layout the review. I found turnitin very easy to use, and I liked the idea of being able to check my work was acceptable before finally submitting it. On the whole though I feel that this assignment, although challenging, was extremely worthwhile and will stand me in good stead for the future, especially using turnitin as I will now easily be able to hand in my future assignments.

Meeting my mentor.

My mentor rung me and we arranged to meet at the canteen in Mithras House. My first impressions of James were that he seemed a very nice approachable guy, which, indeed he was. We started talking and he asked me how I was finding University life, both the social side of it and the work load. I responded by telling him that I was very much enjoying the social side of university as I have enjoyed meeting all new people and making new friends. I then proceeded to add that I was finding some of the workload quite hard as it is a big step up from A-levels, but also that I found it all extremely interesting, especially the Marketing, Law and Economic elements of the course, which has made it easier to read up on it as I am interesting in it.

Subsequently, we then mutually decided on some goals that I could set myself, they were as follows; Firstly, we set the target that I must achieve a high 2.1 or a 1st at the end of the course. Secondly, was the target that I must find a job. The last target was that I must meet all of my deadlines and attend all of my lectures and seminars, unless there were extenuating circumstances. James then gave me his e-mail address and told me to contact him if I needed any help with anything in the future. Lastly, we arranged another date to meet and then we both parted ways.

Personal SWOT…

What are my strengths? What do I already have that I might be able to build on?I feel that one of my strengths is my existing knowledge of businesses and how they operate. I gained this knowledge through research I conducted in A-Level. Good Presentation is another thing I view as a strength of mine.| What are my weaknesses / areas for development?I believe my main weakness is the speed at which I work. This directly contrasts with one of my strengths (Good presentation) as I try to make everything look neat and therefore spend longer than I should on the work.| What opportunities do you see to develop yourself?I have a vast amount of opportunities available to me at Brighton University.

These opportunities include; Teachers to give me advice when I get stuck on something, Libraries so I can easily find the books/journals I might need to help me write my essays, Other students who I can ask for their input on my work and how I could improve it (Peer Review)| What threats do you see to your personal development, or barriers that may need to be overcome?

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