Our third annual UK Women Professionals in the Workplace survey comes to the forefront as we delve into the financial landscape for women. A recent study from investment firm Shepherds Friendly reveals a concerning projection for women in the UK, anticipating a substantial financial gap of £10,362 by 2030 if they invest 7.5% of their earnings. This stark reality highlights the urgency to address financial disparities as we commemorate International Women’s Day.

With a nationwide reach, this online survey engaged 2000 full-time employed individuals aged 25 and older, with women comprising 59% and men 41% of the respondents. As we delve into hybrid and in-office work environments, this study navigates through determining aspects like pay, promotions, benefits, and leadership. By offering year-on-year comparisons, scrutinizing gaps in perceptions, and exploring the impact of roles or statuses such as parenthood, our initiative seeks to contribute valuable insights to the broader conversation on gender equality and workforce dynamics in the UK professional landscape.

Key Takeaways 

  • Majority women miss out on 2023 pay rise and promoted without increased compensation
  • Women’s high confidence is undermined as they report feeling less qualified due to their gender
  • Women expect a stable work-life balance with optimism, though subtle challenges are noted, disproportionately affecting them
  • Female employees spearhead high retention intentions 
  • Persistent perception of pay inequality favoring men stems from lack of salary transparency

1. Double whammy: Women majority missing out on a pay rise while also being the largest group promoted without an increase in compensation

Despite an encouraging stability in the perception that women are promoted equally to men (62%), no real change from last year’s 63%, the reality of promotions with pay increases has experienced a decline. 

Contrary to the perception of equal promotion, only 30 % women compared to 34% men, received pay raises in 2023, and they also constitute the majority of those promoted without salary increases. This is at odds with the perception held by the majority (62%) that believe women and men are promoted equally.

This reflects a significant rise from the previous year, where 47% received pay increases alongside promotions.

The outlook for 2024 appears challenging for some, as 29% were not promoted in 2023 and do not anticipate promotions in the coming year, slightly worse than the previous year’s 23%. More women (33%) than men (25%) were not promoted in 2023 or expect to be in 2024.These findings point to existing disparities in promotions and pay increases, urging the need for concerted efforts to bridge the gaps both in reality and perception in order to create a more equitable professional landscape for women in corporate Britain.

Perceptions on career progression differ somewhat too between parents and non-parents. A notable 43% of parents believe men and women are promoted equally compared with 57% among non-parents. Yet, almost two fifths feel having children has had a somehow negative impact on people’s career progress and childless or child-free people believe they are left to pick up the slack created by working parents who leave on time or take time off to care for sick children for example.

The findings point to the impact of personal experiences on perceptions of pay and career equity, and again proving the need for organisations to consider diverse viewpoints to effectively address and bridge such gaps in understanding as well as practice.

2. Women’s high confidence levels are often undermined or eroded by factors related to their gender, creating challenges in the workplace

In 2023, when it comes to confidence in performance, women have experienced both advancements and hurdles. Notably, there has been a substantial increase in the overall confidence level, with 93% of the total sample expressing a strong sense of confidence compared to 40% the previous year. It’s worth highlighting that both men and women show equally high levels of confidence.

This is despite being made to feel less qualified because of their gender compared to their male counterparts.

Of the individuals who reported feeling diminished at work due to their gender, constituting 17% (down from 24% previously) of the total sample, the overwhelming majority were women. Specifically, 79% more women than men comprised this group, highlighting a concerning gender disparity in the experiences of feeling uncomfortable or less qualified to perform their jobs.  Conversely 82% of all respondents said they had never been made to feel less qualified due to their gender (up from 76% previously) and 55% of those respondents are women.This sheds light on the continued need for greater attention towards creating an inclusive and equitable work environment for everyone.

In the broader context, these findings provide insights into the subtle challenges faced by women in the workplace. Despite societal expectations and persistent biases, women continue to navigate professional spaces with resilience and determination.

3. Women anticipate improved work-life balance in 2024, yet concerns linger as female majority foresees challenges ahead

The latest statistics on work-life balance reveal positive trends for both men and women. Nearly half (46%) expect their work-life balance to remain unchanged in 2024, signifying a slight increase for women from the previous year’s 44% and a more significant rise for men, up from 37% in the preceding report.

Conversely, a positive shift is discernible as 22% express optimism that their work-life balance will improve, a modest uptick from the preceding year’s 18%. Within this optimistic cohort, almost two-fifths are women, signaling a collective expectation for enhanced equilibrium. However, 14% anticipate a deterioration in work-life balance, a slight increase from the previous year’s 10%. Among this group, a significant 62% are women, emphasising the potential challenges that women might foresee in navigating their professional and personal spheres.

Indeed the top three most compelling reasons driving individuals to the office, each resonating with 41% of respondents, include face-to-face interactions, because it is mandated, and a desire to be an integral part of the office culture and social fabric. This compares with the previous year where face-to-face interactions, though still dominant, have seen a modest increase in preference this time round. Visibility with managers, which held a 27% share in the previous year, has been surpassed by company mandate, suggesting a potential reevaluation of priorities which may be disproportionately affecting women who have concerns about juggling home and work life.

When delving into the preferences for flexible work models among respondents, a clear trend emerges, particularly with regards to gender dynamics. This year, a notable 37% express a preference for a 5-day hybrid workweek, where employees have the flexibility to choose when and where they work. Surprisingly, 22% lean towards a full-time work-from-home arrangement, and 17% opt for a traditional full week in the office. 

Comparing these results with the prior year’s data reveals a shift in preferences. In the previous year, the top choice was a hybrid setup (25%), followed by 5 days in the office (18%), and 5 days at home (15%).

The gender breakdown of these preferences adds a nuanced layer to the analysis. Within the 37% opting for a 5-day hybrid week, the majority, a substantial 62%, are women. This indicates that women, more than men, find appeal in a flexible work arrangement that allows them to balance remote and in-office work seamlessly. 

Similarly, among the 22% who lean towards full-time remote work, a significant 64% are women, highlighting a strong inclination towards the flexibility and autonomy associated with remote work among female respondents.

These insights allude to the importance of tailoring flexible work policies to accommodate diverse preferences, with particular attention to the needs and desires of women in the workforce.

4. Key trends in 2024 workplace dynamics include a high job retention rate with women comprising a significant majority

When it comes to respondents’ outlook on job retention and mobility, a substantial 74% express their intention to remain with their current employers in 2024, reflecting an increase from the previous year’s 68%. Within this majority, women constitute a significant 58%, pointing to their commitment to the organisations they currently belong to.

When asked about the factors that could potentially lead them to consider changing jobs, the top three responses provide valuable insights. An overwhelming 83% cite a pay increase as a decisive factor, with 60% of this group being women. This emphasis on financial incentives echoes a prevailing concern for equitable compensation, particularly among female respondents. Following closely, 53% indicate that flexible work conditions would be a compelling reason to switch jobs, and notably, 55% of these individuals are not parents. This suggests that flexibility holds broad appeal beyond the parenting demographic. Job security, at 32%, rounds out the top three reasons, reflecting a shift from the previous year’s priorities where pay, flexible work models, and a strong and healthy workplace culture held the top positions.

The comparison between the current and previous year’s data reveals evolving preferences. While last year’s top considerations were primarily centered around pay, flexible work models, and workplace culture, this year’s respondents place a heightened emphasis on financial rewards and job security. Understanding these dynamics can inform employers in tailoring strategies to retain talent, ensuring that organisational offerings align with the diverse needs of employees, taking into account gender differences and family structures.

5. Vital steps needed if companies are to improve on pay transparency and equity for women

With regards to the issue of pay parity, the findings pay gaps between men and women persist as crucial points of concern. While 66% of respondents believe that men and women are paid equally, reflecting a slight increase from the previous year’s 61%, only 1% believe that women are paid more, indicating a persistent perception of pay inequality favoring men.

This discrepancy may stem from the lack of transparency in salary information, as close to one third (29%) state that their organisations do not publish salary information and ranges for job descriptions—an increase from the previous year’s 26%.

The transparency in pay information is crucial in addressing and rectifying pay disparities as well as people’s perception of them. 

Notably, only 27% of respondents are unsure if their companies offer women-specific benefits, down from the 30% reported in the previous year. This improvement suggests a growing awareness and understanding of the benefits aimed at creating a more equitable workplace. However, there is still progress to be made, as 20% state that their companies do not offer women-specific benefits.

Examining the workplace environment, 36% of respondents claim not to experience a particular attitude towards women in their companies, which is an increase from the 26% reported last year. Nevertheless, 33% note that they gauge their company’s attitude towards women in the visibility of women in their day-to-day operations. This shift from the previous year’s top responses—day-to-day visibility (38%), company culture (31%), and company values (28%)—points to the evolving dynamics in assessing workplace gender equality.

While strides are being made in addressing pay disparities and fostering an inclusive work environment, the persistence of perceptions and the need for increased transparency underscore the ongoing challenges. Recognising these nuances is crucial for organizations to implement effective measures that not only bridge the gender pay gap but also cultivate an environment where women feel valued and represented.

About the survey

The UK Women Professionals in the Workplace 2024 survey took place over January 2024 and provides insights from an audience of 2000 respondents.  Of the respondents, 59% are female, while 41% are male. Additionally, there are participants who identify as non-binary (9), trans male (2), trans female (2), and one who ticked the ‘other’ box. In terms of work arrangements, 44% are based full time in the office, while 43% adopt a hybrid working model. Geographically, 20% are located in London, 20% in the Southeast, and 10% in Scotland, with smaller distributed representation from other regions. Company sizes vary, with 35% working in medium-sized companies, and approximately 31% in both small and large companies. About 21% hold customer-facing roles. In terms of family structure, 54% do not have children or dependants. The professional roles of the respondents include 48% individual contributors, 30% managers of people, 11% business decision-makers, and 10% in C-suite positions.