The ‘Unfinished Business’ of Caring

In recent months, we have seen a renewed focus on the issue of pregnancy and maternity in the workplace and the growing acceptance of the business case for supporting pregnancy and maternity rights at work. Despite this progress, a review by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into pregnancy and maternity in Britain, revealed that high levels of discrimination still exist in both the private and public sector. This report identified that not only can pregnancy and maternity impact the earnings of many women it can also potentially damage their future career progression.

The TUC estimate that around 25% of women do not return to work after maternity leave, and one in six of mums who do go back change jobs because their employer will not allow them to work reduced or flexible hours. And when women do return to work, the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that, on average, for a woman a pay gap of 10% exists even before the arrival of a first child. There is then a gradual increase in this gap, until the first child is twelve years old, when it is likely a women’s hourly wage will be a third below a man’s.

Whilst it is important to focus on areas of discrimination that still exist linked to pregnancy and maternity rights and to ensure that we collectively work to reduce inequality in the workplace and within roles, this work also highlights a wider issue operating in our society that we need to address. And that is in terms of how we treat and view not just expectant mothers but others who undertake caring roles in our society.

The majority of paid and unpaid childcare is undertaken by women, and is viewed and valued as low status work. Historically, occupations that are undertaken mainly by women or have been “feminised” are characterised by low pay and are perceived as having low economic value in comparison to work undertaken predominately by men. Anne Marie Slaughter, Hilary Clinton’s former policy chief, in her book “Unfinished Business” argues that to drive change across society we need to stop viewing caring as a “women’s issue”. She talks about building an infrastructure of care, around the notion that “If family comes first, work does not come second. Life comes together”, where caregiving rather than seen as a business cost, is viewed as an asset by businesses and organisations allowing many women to be their most productive in the workplace.

To achieve this, we need to broaden the national conversation to consider changing current childcare attitudes, the level of financial support for shared parental leave and the role that men can and should play in care provision. In Norway over 70% of fathers currently take more than 5 weeks’ paternity leave, whilst in the UK we still have a stigma that prevents many fathers or partners from playing a more active role in early parenting and which has led to a woeful uptake by men of shared parental leave.

We also need to consider the support and encouragement we give to home based work, allowing more parents to set up businesses, work from home, or to study or learn new skills whilst undertaking childcare. And we also need to address the growing “hidden” caring burden, increasingly being carried by many women in support of elderly relatives or parents, and ensure that we are not creating a new “covering” syndrome, linked to ageing.

The introduction of pay gap reporting in 2017, will shine a spotlight on earnings inequity across sectors and within organisations. However, we won’t get near to closing the gender pay gap until we also take action to address the low economic value we attach to caring roles, recognise the contribution of caregiving to the formal and informal economy and invest in it accordingly. Anne Marie Slaughter sets out a vision for the caring economy in the United States, but her focus on the “unfinished” business of how we value and integrate caregiving into our workplaces and society is universal.

Dr Lesley Sawers


Raise the Game and Grow the Economy

There isn’t a day that goes by now without the latest figures on female participation in the economy.

Just this week we’ve been hearing that women make up only 8% of engineers in the UK and at a school level 49% of state schools have no girls studying physics.

We have also had an announcement of following a Review by Sir Philip Hampton and Dame Helen Alexander that a new target has been set to get women occupying one in three of the most senior executive positions in major businesses in the UK by 2020.

This builds on the 33% target of women on FTSE boards by 2020 and the Scottish Government’s target of a 50:50 gender split on all public boards in Scotland in the same year.

So many targets. So many challenges.

It’s time for all businesses across the UK to rise to the challenge, to raise their game and seriously focus on growing our economy.

We need to really look behind the issues as to why engineering, IT and STEM careers are still not attracting the number of talented women out there today.

We also really need to take a long and hard look at the role of women themselves in the workplace. Why is it that women continue to be less likely than men to ask for promotions and pay rises?

All of these considerations and questions are complex and not one answer will solve the problem.

More and more now we also need men to step up to the plate and take their role seriously to promote gender equality.

The message needs to be loud and clear. It’s not just the right the thing to do but it’s the right business decision.

Actions speak louder than words.

Male and Female Role models are great for showing everyone what can be achieved and can support others to rise up and achieve their ambitions. We need to look at the benefits of mentors for women – particularly for those who wouldn’t normally push themselves forward for promotion or board opportunities.

And we need to continue to push the economic evidence and data that will convince business leaders that equality in the workplace is a business imperative.

At GenAnalytics we can form part of the solution for this complex problem. We have a track record, a passion and a commitment to working with businesses to help them understand where their diversity challenges begin, to understand their data and to provide them with a series of recommendations and a road map to improving equality.

What gets measured get done.

If we can all take responsibility and play our part, we can truly change the conversation and improve opportunities for women in all sectors of the economy.

Importantly we will also unleash economic growth otherwise unachievable if the status quo remains.

Jane Gotts

GenAnalytics is a specialist marketing and insights consultancy focussed on diversity in the workplace.


Scotland’s Diversity and Inclusion Awards 2016


At Scotland’s inaugural national Diversity Awards 2016 *, we recognised those companies, organisations and individuals who are working to make a real difference to their communities, their businesses and to the Scottish economy. We also showcased what can be achieved when as a society we put diversity and inclusion at the heart of our actions and work based activities. The Awards clearly demonstrated that it can transform lives, communities and workplaces.

The high standard of entrants and the level of activity underway across Scotland in support of greater diversity, hugely impressed not only the judging panel but also the three hundred plus individuals and organisations attending on the evening. Choosing the winners was a difficult task and recognition needs to be given to not only those receiving the accolades on the evening, but to all the individuals and organisations who are committed to making our society, our communities, our workplaces and boardrooms across the nation better and fairer places.

We also hope that through the Awards, many more companies and organisations will be encouraged to support greater equality and diversity in their workplaces and to recognise the economic, employee and community benefits that it can achieve. Evidence clearly demonstrates that improving equality and diversity in an organisation can not only lead to improved financial performance, but also enhanced people retention and talent recruitment, greater employee engagement, increased customer satisfaction and improved productivity.

At GenAnalytics, we have a bold vision and we see the Diversity Awards as a key reference point for helping drive business change and in supporting the economic transformation of Scotland’s workplaces.

We all know that so much more can be done to promote greater equality and diversity across Scotland PLC. The national Diversity Awards provides a platform to share and celebrate achievement, but also more importantly to learn from each other and to improve what we do. By understanding where we are, good and bad, we can work together to create a shared economic vision and a common purpose in what greater equality and diversity can deliver for Scotland.

Building on the Diversity Awards, we intend to work together with our partners across business and civic Scotland to transform this energy and passion into knowledge and action that we can share at our “International Diversity and Inclusion” Conference to be held in Glasgow on March 2017. We do hope that you will join with us to contribute your knowledge and expertise on how we can make equality everyone’s business in Scotland.

Dr Lesley Sawers, Executive Chair, GenAnalytics Ltd


* Scotland’s Diversity Awards 2016 took place on 13 October 2016 #scotdiversity16

#equality #economy #leadership #diversity


Why We Need to Change the Equality Conversation across UK Plc

Earlier this month a group of business leaders gathered in Edinburgh to hear from Thorhild Widney, one of Norway’s foremost and experienced politicians. The leadership event was hosted by FWB Park Brown and supported by Ernst & Young LLP.

In a lengthy international career, Thorhild’s portfolio has included Minister for Petroleum and Energy, State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister for Culture and Minister for Fisheries. Experience now applied within the international renewable and energy sectors at Board and NXD level.

The discussion was wide ranging, covering the breadth of Thornhild’s ministerial and non-executive portfolio and the interests of those attending. We discussed Norwegian politics, the economic impact of social and progressive labour programmes, international energy politics and the governance and leadership issues within large and complex listed companies.

The audience, a mix of corporate lawyers, financier, academics, CEOs, FDs and senior industry leaders gained insights into the relationship between government, the Norwegian economy and business practice, learning lessons for Scotland and their own organisations in the international context and from the extensive experience of the speaker.

Overriding themes that emerged crossed business, politics and society and included the need for transparency in decision making and in action, the key role for business in changing working practices and the need for a framework of legislation that can act as triggers to change business and society behaviours. The homogeneity of many Boards and the issues this creates in terms of “group think” and corporate governance was also highlighted.

The audience experienced a masterclass in both big “P” and small “p” politics at a national and business level, they learned how to succeed in business through strategic and personal career planning and how to balance successful international assignments with family commitments.

It was an inspirational event, and one that demonstrated the nature of the national business and equality conversation that many women want to have at a Board and senior level across the UK. If it can be done in Norway, then why not here?

Dr Lesley Sawers
Executive Chair

GenAnalytics Ltd

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Disability in the Workplace – Guest Blog by Gill Low, MacRoberts

MacRoberts’ Senior Marketing Manager Gill Low shares her insights into working with a disability.

I don’t think of myself as disabled. Maybe because I wasn’t classed as such until I was 32. Leading up to this point I had lived through 10 years of varying degrees of hearing loss but by the age of 32 I was diagnosed profoundly deaf – with no hope of ever regaining any natural hearing.

Nobody knows why I lost my hearing. I like to think it has nothing to do with my love of clubbing throughout my teenage years at the ‘unders’ in Glasgow. Who knows, it might have been? During my 20s I had hundreds of tests carried out on me but nothing came back conclusive.

The reason doesn’t matter to me, knowing the cause isn’t going to bring it back. What mattered to me then – and still does to this day – is leading a ’normal’ life. I was determined not to be defined by my disability. I refused to learn to sign and instead just carried on. I taught myself how to lip read and starting campaigning for a cochlear implant.

My hearing loss started when I was in the last few months of an intense 12-month Masters in Marketing at Leeds University Business School. One day I couldn’t hear the lecturer as well as I could the day before. After an emergency appointment with a consultant and a MRI scan to rule out a brain tumour, years of fluctuating hearing followed.

My hearing loss changed considerably throughout my 20s, going through periods of nearly normal hearing for 3 months then dropping the next day to almost nothing, then coming back a few months later. I’ll never forget standing in a travel agents in Sydney handing over the second half of a world trip (to Fiji, New Zealand, Brazil and Argentina) in exchange for a one way ticket home to Glasgow. My hearing had dropped so badly – my once in a lifetime trip was impossible to continue.

From the age of 22 to 33 I followed my career in marketing whilst struggling to hear anything. I won’t lie – I believe my career would have gone further in my 20s if I still had the hearing I grew up with, but I still managed to progress a little thanks to some great understanding employers.

Deafness can be an invisible disability and deafness can irritate people, especially if you require something to be repeated constantly. On the odd occasion I could tell I was annoying colleagues but the vast majority were encouraging, supportive and understanding. If I needed special equipment for meetings, then that was organised. If I couldn’t hear on the phone, that was fine – I was given other tasks to do. If I was having a ‘bad hearing day’, then I wasn’t required in meetings.

My confidence at times was shattered. There were dark days when I just wanted to go home and hide. There were days I wondered how different my life might have been if I hadn’t lost my ability to hear. Thankfully they were few and far between. I am incredibly lucky to be graced with a very loving family and an amazing group of friends who never allowed me to feel sorry for myself. I didn’t need to anyway, because thanks to them I was still, for the majority of the time, leading a very happy fulfilling life with an ok career.

Life changed again in May 2010 when I was put forward for a cochlear implant. My expectations were not high but I knew anything would be an improvement from what I currently had. The results were hard to take in. Within three months of turning the implant on it was allowing me to hear almost 80% in my right ear.

Whilst my hearing is nowhere near ‘normal’ and I still have limitations, for the first time in ten years I could hear birds sing and planes fly overhead. I also rediscovered my love of music – pre-implant I had no knowledge of music released between 2000 and 2010 (turns out I didn’t miss much).

My new implant gave me the confidence to apply for the job of Marketing Manager at MacRoberts in 2012. In the four and half years I have worked here, I have become a mum, received my second cochlear implant and been promoted.

The level of patience, understanding and encouragement I received from MacRoberts (as well as my past employers) can never be underestimated. Whether it has been sourcing the right phone for me, making sure I can hear in meetings with the right equipment and having time off for appointments and surgery, they have been there – supporting and encouraging me.

Managing the PR for the firm, my typical day involves calling and meeting journalists, attending events, networking, reviewing sponsorship proposals, presenting strategies and plans and working closely with the marketing team and partners. It’s busy and it’s stressful at times but I am so grateful I can do it all without worrying what I can and can’t hear.

Unfortunately it would appear I have been somewhat lucky in my experiences at work. A recent survey by the Scottish Council of Deafness reported that 74% of deaf people in Scotland said they were prevented from progressing at work because of their deafness. Research also shows that the biggest barrier at work for deaf people is lack of understanding by employers of their communication needs, with a shocking 60% looking for another job because of their treatment at work.

There are 57,000 people in Scotland with severe or profound hearing loss – so it is glaringly obvious that these statistics need to change. Awareness of deaf people’s needs has to be brought to the forefront of employers’ minds. It is why the work of Genanalytics and The Diversity Awards – which celebrates employers who embrace diversity – is so important.

Gill Low is Senior Marketing Manager at MacRoberts. MacRoberts are delighted to be sponsoring The Diversity Awards in association with The Herald and GenAnalytics.

For further information on The Diversity Awards, follow the links below.

Leading the way

Scotland Leading the Way in Diversity

The Scottish Diversity Awards 2016 #scotdiversity16

The judging panel for Scotland’s first ever National Diversity Awards met on Wednesday this week. With over 80 entries from a range of third sector, public organisations and large and small businesses, the level and quality of submissions was outstanding. Feedback from the independent judges was that every entry provided an excellent example of the great work that is going on across Scotland to achieve diversity and equality in the workplace and in our communities.

This is an occasion when I really do wish everyone could be a winner – when we see the commitment and focus of these individuals and organisations and when we consider the impact they are having on moving the diversity dial in Scotland. It’s good to know that so many people have a vision of equality at the heart of their organisation or business across Scotland.

On the 13th October, 2016 GenAnalytics and The Herald will announce the winners. And we will rightly applaud their achievements. If you also want to hear and find out more, join us on the 13th October to cheer the winners and all those doing such great work to promote equality and diversity. They deserve your support.

Dr Lesley Sawers
Executive Chair

#equality #diversity #leadership

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Why Female Vital Statistics Matter

This Autumn a whole new meaning will be given to the term “vital statistics”.

Why? Because, pay and bonus gap reporting will become mandatory for over 8,000 businesses across the UK. From October, women employed in larger companies will be able to see pay rates, differences in earnings and bonus payments in their own organisations and in other companies.

At a national level, the differences in male and female earnings is well documented. We already know that for everyone pound a man earns, a woman earns 85 pence. Or put another way, on average a woman works for free for two months of the year compared to a man. Within Scotland, the gender pay gap averages 17% but can be as high as 40% in the legal and professional services sector and 23% in the construction industry. Soon we will be able to see exactly where and in which companies these differences arise.

Whilst the introduction of national pay gap measures is a welcome development, we still have some way to go to ensure full transparency on workplace information on diversity across many sectors and organisations. Given the slow pace of change in many areas such as flexible working, affordable childcare, skills and training, and boardroom appointments it is clear that women cannot wait for “things” to get better and for societal attitudes to change of their own accord. My own personal belief that we could achieve workplace equality through the natural progression of younger generations and without the need for Government policy or legislative intervention has long faded.

In fact, evidence shows that societal attitudes and behaviours can take up to 20 years to shift, at least one generation or sometimes longer. A recent study by Kramer and Harris showed that millennial men (i.e. those aged between 16 and 36 years old) are just as “sexist” (their words) as their fathers’ generation. Many of the male participants in this study believed their careers should take precedence over their partners, and two thirds held the view that their wives or partners should deal with childcare. Another US based study, conducted by Pew Research, also worryingly highlighted that the majority of young males interviewed believed that gender equality had been achieved in the workplace and there was no need for further policy changes at a national level. Both studies suggest that if something isn’t done soon to change millennial male attitudes this could have serious consequences for the advancement of women to senior positions in the future.

My own Review* conducted on behalf of the UK Government Scotland Office and published last year, identified the need for more measures on gender equality as one of its Key Recommendations. It also called for the development of a national framework or plan to assess progress and the impact not just of Government policy but also of company actions. The development of a “National Gender Workplace Plan” for Scotland, involving business, government, third sector, public sector and key stakeholder groups would ensure we combined our resources, expertise and energy against an agreed set of goals and measures. This would help increase the pace of change and the overcoming of inertia in key areas. Importantly, it would also identify the KPI’s or business performance measures that would deliver greatest value to the economy, to women and their families and to society.

We still have some way to go in agreeing a national set of gender performance measures that we can all sign up to, and over one year on there is no “Gender Workplace Plan” or collective strategy that businesses and organisations can work together to deliver. And we still lack a set of uniform equalities measures across the public and private sectors that link to economic and business performance. On the upside, the move towards mandatory pay gap reporting will at least ensure transparency of pay data. Once published the hope is that pressure from employees, customers, shareholders, stakeholders and from women themselves will force companies to take action. As Drucker famously said, “What gets measured, gets done” pay gap reporting is one set of vital statistics that soon we can all share.

Dr Lesley Sawers

Executive Chair

GenAnalytics Ltd

*“The Role and Contribution of Women to the Scottish Economy” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-role-and-contribution-of-women-in-the-scottish-economy

(version of this article first published in BWS Magazine July/August 2016)

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When First Becomes Meaningless

Last week I was asked to join a panel discussion on BBC Scotland Radio to answer the question have we finally achieved gender equality in the UK?

With a soon to be second female Prime Minister, a female First Minister in Scotland and Northern Ireland, we were asked to share our views on the second wave of Girl Power in the UK.

Of course it is excellent that women play such a prominent role in UK politics and such high profile individuals can only continue to champion the cause to encourage more women to enter the political field. However, in my view we will only be able to say we have achieved equality at all levels in business and society when first becomes meaningless.

How often do we refer to the First Female?

The biggest of all is the potential this year of the First Female President of the United States. We have the first female head of the IMF, the first female Chancellor of Germany, the first female First Minister of Scotland, the first female Chair of the US Federal Reserve Bank.

And we also have a constant stream of first female CEOs in companies and organisations throughout the world.

That’s a lot of First Females.

Such high profile appointments can only be good to show girls and women what can be achieved but when we scratch beneath the surface and the headlines we still have a significant journey ahead of us before we can truly say we have achieved equality.

The latest Women on Boards performance in the UK announced last week demonstrated a snail pace effort to improving the balance. Only 25% of recent FTSE 100 Board appointments have gone to women – the lowest rate since 2011. If we look at the FTSE 350 total only 7% of board directors are women.

In Scotland we continue to have a pay gap between men and women currently standing at 17.5% – this rises to 40% in some sectors.

Women across the UK are more likely to be in low-paid, part time roles as opposed to men.

Women are more likely to face challenges with lower pension provisions than men as they reach older age.

We all know that equality matters and that it is the right thing to do.

What can often be understated though is the significant economic benefits that gender equality would deliver.

McKinsey has estimated that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing gender equality.

If we do not harness the potential of over half of the world’s population the global economy will suffer.

Unleashing the potential of women to set up their own businesses in Scotland could lead to a 5% increase in Scottish GDP if women were to create their own businesses at the same rate as men. When Scotland’s current growth rate is hovering around 1.7% this makes for a tantalising opportunity to stimulate a significant boost to our economy.

With companies continuing to face a war on attracting, keeping the best talent and maintaining competitive advantage we know that diverse teams can demonstrate higher performance levels and importantly increase bottom line profitability.

So we have the attention grabbing headlines on women running the world and a message to the boys in the UK that the political norm has changed. The reality, once the headlines and the articles that follow have disappeared into yesterday’s news, is that we still have a long way to go.

Unless we change our approach now we will have to wait another 117 years before we achieve pay equality globally according to EY. I really don’t want to wait that long and what kind of message does this signal to the next generation of young women leaving school into work or going into further education.

So we need to shift the conversation from nice to do to have to do. That means mainstreaming gender equality as a business issue and creating frameworks and measurements to set baseline performance and track progress.

What gets measured gets done.

It is through a structured, analytical approach that we will see progress and this begins in the companies employing women across the UK.

At GenAnalytics we are confident that this approach will work and that we can track the talent pipeline, support organisations to close any gender pay gaps and importantly support women to achieve their ambitions – whatever their background.

This will require a massive effort across industry and with individuals stepping up to the plate to take responsibility.

Only then will we begin to reach a point in time when we no longer talk about firsts.

Jane Gotts


Womenomics: Why Equality and Diversity Matters in Civic Society

Last year I completed an Independent Review, commissioned by the UK Government Scotland Office, which examined the “Role and Contribution of Women to the Scottish Economy”. The subtitle of the Review was ”Womenomics”, a term coined in Japan to help a very male dominated culture and society recognise the economic contribution that greater participation by women in civic society and business could achieve.

Given the recent decision by Muirfield Golf Club members to continue to exclude 52% of the population from its membership, sadly it seems that within Scotland we also still have work to do to convince a minority of people of the value and economic benefit that a more diverse and equal society can deliver.

This decision, as it stands, will mean that the British Open, one of the most iconic and prestigious golf tournaments in the world, will not return to a venue just twenty-one miles outside Edinburgh, our Capital City. The loss of this event to the Scottish economy is estimated to be in the region of £100m, the impact on our international reputation and national brand as a welcoming and caring nation is immeasurable.

Major sporting events are a key economic driver for Scotland and our reputation on the world stage has been hard earned through significant public and private sector investment in infrastructure, facilities, marketing and promotion. The 2015 Open Championship in St Andrews delivered £140 million of economic benefit to Scotland – the largest amount ever achieved by a golf event in the United Kingdom or Ireland, according to an independent economic impact assessment, commissioned by golf’s governing body the R&A.

In Scotland, we host the Open more times than any other part of the UK. It brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to this country and generates significant business for hotels, restaurants, local businesses and the wider Scottish economy. But most importantly, it supports valuable and much needed jobs in tourism, hospitality and retail. All sectors dominated by female workers. This decision by a small group of private club members potentially has ramifications for many women beyond the Clubhouse or course. It can be reversed and like many, I hope that it is. If not on social and moral grounds, then surely in terms of its economic and business impact.

In July this year, the Ayrshire town of Troon will host the 145th Open. The Royal Troon Golf Club is also currently consulting its members on whether to end its “men-only” membership policy. Its Captain has already stated “it is important that the club, much like the wider game, reflects the modern society in which we exist”

Let’s all hope Royal Troon members better understand the concept of “Womenomics” and why equalities and diversity matters in our civic society.

Dr Lesley Sawers

Executive Chair


Blog Image Ageing

Women and Ageism: Economic Illusion or Fact

You may have never heard of the term “Frequency Illusion” but now that I’ve mentioned it chances are that you will hear it again some time very soon. “Frequency Illusion” is the phenomenon where you hear a piece of news or information or see something and very soon afterwards encounter the same object or information again, often repeatedly.

Since turning 50 some years ago and heading all too fast towards the next significant birthday, I seem to be confronted on an almost daily basis with facts and stories about ageing women. It’s everywhere – on the news, in magazines, on the web at home and at work. I don’t think it’s an illusion, I do believe there has been an increase in the frequency and volume of information on the issues facing women in the third age that reflects the increasing focus of society, the media, politicians and from women ourselves on ageing and its impact on our careers, family life and future work and earning prospects.

Since 2000, the proportion of people aged 50-64 in work has grown from 61% to 66% in 2014.The employment rate for people over 65 has similarly risen from 8% to over 14%. This older working group however contains a lot of disparity linked to age, occupation and education and there are significant challenges experienced by many women in this age group. Within the UK, three in five female employees (aged 50+) work in three sectors characterised by low paid jobs; education, health and retail. All sectors that are predicted to shrink in employment numbers. In a recent Radio 5 survey into ageism, one in five adults said they had experience ageism, 32% of them in the workplace. Worryingly in this survey, Scotland had the second highest incidence of ageism in the workplace, just behind Wales.

And whilst employment rates amongst the 50+ age group are rising, across the UK there are over 3 million unemployed people aged 50-64 who are actively seeking work. Approximately 1 million of these people have been made “involuntary workless” or as Business in the Community describes it “pushed out of their jobs” for reasons of redundancy, ill health or early retirement. What this essentially means, is that there are millions of people over 50 who would like to work but can’t find a job. Within my own circle of 50+ friends and colleagues, this seems a particularly serious issue for many women, who may also have experienced divorce or single parenthood and now find themselves the sole household earner and faced with very real challenges in re-entering or remaining in work.

A number of experts are also highlighting the potential challenge facing many women in this older age group in seeking work, as their jobs and skills do not match those sectors predicted to grow. Older women on average have lower levels of formal qualifications and are less likely to engage in training, either through not working in sectors that have invested heavily in workforce development or having missed earlier career development opportunities due to a whole host of reasons linked to caring responsibilities or extended periods not in paid employment. A recent study across the OECD highlighted the fact that women do more unpaid work than men, many choosing to combine work with family responsibilities, something we all know, but interestingly what this study also demonstrated was this comes with a cost to many women’s long term career and earning prospects. The effect of the boomerang generation is also adversely impacting many women, with over three million older women within the UK having adult children still living at home.

In Scotland, the proportion of older women (50+) has been rising steadily since 2004, from 24% to 28% in 2011. Many of these older women are likely to earn less than older men, on average 20% less, and to have more responsibility for caring for elderly relatives or grandchildren. This trend is likely to continue as more and more of us baby-boomers and Generation Jones’s (that’s anyone born up to the mid 1960’s) become a larger proportion of the ageing workforce.

The recent increase in retirement age has also impacted many working women, the STUC have identified that many women in the 50-64 age group are less likely to be eligible for full state pensions or to have access to an occupational pension, often having either restricted access to schemes or breaks in contributions due to childcare. Figures show that women have on average £32k in defined pension schemes as opposed to £62k+ for men. Analysis of single women households suggests that this age group may also be negatively impacted by a changing welfare system that has a focus on family units as opposed to individuals.

So for many women in Scotland ageing is not an economic illusion.

It would be hard reading this data and statistics, not to feel a little depressed at the potentially very bleak future for many women. But there is a positive side. With this increase in focus on ageing in society and in the workplace, there has also been a growing recognition of the need to specifically look at third age work requirements, particularly for women.

A report last year by the UK Government into older people, recognised the need for a national focus on retaining, retraining and recruiting workers over 50 and it identified a whole package of policy measures to support flexible working, training needs and to protect earnings.

There are also a growing number of women like myself, now choosing self-employment as a career option, 10% of women in Scotland aged 50-64 are now self-employed. Many cite greater flexibility and overcoming challenges of age discrimination as their reasons for entrepreneurship. The majority of new businesses in the UK are created by people in their 40s and 50s, the evidence shows that these “olderpreneurs” have a 70% chance of survival compared to 28% for younger people. Little research exists into the female “olderpreneur” and the contribution this group could make to the economy, but we know that in Scotland if woman started businesses at the same rate as men, this would add an additional 5% to GDP or the equivalent of an extra £7.6 billion to the national economy. So the opportunity for policy makers and government to develop a package of targeted support measures and incentives to support female “oldpreneurs” is there.

Similarly, both the Scottish Commission into Older Women and Business in the Community have also identified a range of practical measures that would support more women to remain in meaningful and rewarding work or to develop new third age careers, these include a greater emphasis on training, agile or flexible working, carer support and pay gap transparency.

I hope in the future we will see greater and faster progress on a range of government and business measures specifically focused at addressing gender ageism at work and in society. As someone very wise once said, “all problems are an illusion of the mind”, ageing and gender is definitely one “frequency illusion” that we can solve.

Dr Lesley Sawers

Executive Chair