Young women, on average, are achieving better educational outcomes than young men; the gender pay gap amongst young people in similar employment has apparently been eliminated.  Job done for gender equality?  

Sadly not.  These successes are not translating into income parity and equal employment opportunities.  Young women are substantially over-represented amongst those who are not learning or earning or who are stuck in low paid and insecure work.  They are at great risk of being trapped in poverty.  These are the women we work with at Young Women’s Trust (YWT).

As our report Clock Turns Back for Young Women highlights, almost half a million young women aged 16-24 are not in employment, education or training (NEET). 1 in 5 young women have been offered jobs below the National Minimum Wage; with the same number having been offered a job on a zero-hours contract.

For many women, apprenticeships can be an important route into the labour market offering good long term career prospects.  However as a report Young Women’s Trust are publishing next week shows, apprenticeships are not currently working as we would hope for young women, with many missing out at every stage.

Young women are likely to be paid less (£4.82 an hour compared to £5.85 for men- making them £2,000 a year worse off); twice as likely to receive no training and are almost three times more likely to be unemployed at the end of the apprenticeship when compared to young men.

One of the reasons young female apprentices are getting a raw deal is the enduring persistence of job segregation.

Approximately 65% of young female apprentices work in just five sectors including Health and Social Care; Children’s Care; and Customer Services. Compare this to the same proportion of male apprentices who work in double the number of sectors including engineering, construction and manual trades – significantly more lucrative with much better long term career prospects. 

Young women consulted by YWT suggest that poor quality, stereotypical careers advice; lack of confidence; bullying and harassment in male dominated work places; and the portrayal of what constitutes women’s work in the media all contribute to the persistence of job segregation.

YWT has also found that large numbers of young women who are interested in apprenticeships are deterred by the lack of flexibility and very poor pay in the fields where they are likely to secure work – completely untenable for women who have caring responsibilities.  

The story is the same for apprenticeships or general employment. In the 21st century “women’s” work carries low value. For example, the average hourly pay for a child care worker is £6.77 compared to £9.70 for a construction worker. 

We cannot and must not be complacent. Young women on our very own door-step are far from being equal.  There is much that can be done. We can start by valuing the skills that women bring to the work place.


by Dr Carole Easton, Chief Executive at Young Women’s Trust