Driving Gender Diversity: Strategies to Attract Women into the UK Workplace

Breaking Barriers: Strategies to Foster Gender Diversity in the UK Workplace

Darryl Horn, Tuesday, 13 June 2023 • 4 min read

Gender diversity is a critical component of a thriving and progressive workforce. Embracing gender diversity not only promotes equality but also fosters innovation, enhances decision-making, and drives business success. However, achieving gender balance in the workplace remains a challenge. In the United Kingdom, statistics reveal persistent disparities in women's representation across various industries and leadership positions. This article explores insightful strategies to attract gender diversity into the UK workplace, accompanied by relevant statistics. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2021, the gender pay gap in the UK stood at 15.5%, indicating disparities in employment opportunities and earnings between men and women.

  1. Address Unconscious Bias in Recruitment: Unconscious bias can inadvertently limit the representation of women in the hiring process. To counter this, organisations must implement strategies to raise awareness and mitigate bias. Utilise structured interviews, blind screening techniques, and diverse interview panels. These steps help ensure that hiring decisions are based solely on qualifications, skills, and merit.

A 2021 study by Women in Advertising and Communications Leadership (WACL) revealed that only 30% of women in the UK felt that job descriptions were gender-neutral.

  1. Promote Inclusive Job Advertisements: Craft job descriptions and advertisements that are gender-neutral and appeal to a diverse range of candidates. Use inclusive language that does not reinforce stereotypes or inadvertently deter women from applying. Focus on the essential skills and qualifications required rather than using language that aligns with traditional gender roles.

According to a 2021 report by PwC, the UK has one of the highest rates of women on career breaks, with 61% stating they found it difficult to re-enter the workforce.

  1. Support Returnship Programs: Offering returnship programs can attract women who have taken career breaks but are looking to re-enter the workforce. These programs provide structured opportunities, training, and mentoring to facilitate a smooth transition back into the professional realm. Highlighting the availability of returnship programs can help tap into a talent pool of experienced women.

A survey by Grant Thornton UK LLP found that only 20% of women in senior roles in the UK had a formal mentor.

  1. Foster Mentorship and Sponsorship: Establish mentorship and sponsorship programs to provide guidance, support, and networking opportunities for women in the workplace. Pairing women with experienced mentors or sponsors who can advocate for their career growth can help overcome barriers and enable them to thrive professionally.

A report by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) revealed that women in the UK are disproportionately affected by long working hours, with 42% of women working over 45 hours per week.

  1. Encourage Flexible Work Arrangements: Offer flexible work arrangements such as part-time schedules, remote work options, and job-sharing opportunities. Flexibility allows women to balance work with other responsibilities, increasing their participation and retention in the workforce.

The Hampton-Alexander Review reported that as of 2021, women accounted for only 34% of board positions in FTSE 350 companies.

  1. Provide Leadership Development and Training: Invest in leadership development programs tailored to address the unique challenges faced by women in their professional growth. Offer training opportunities that focus on building confidence, communication skills, and leadership capabilities. Encouraging women to take on stretch assignments and providing ongoing support can help them progress into senior positions.

Achieving gender diversity in the UK workplace requires proactive measures and a concerted effort from organisations. By addressing unconscious bias, promoting inclusive job advertisements, supporting returnship programs, fostering mentorship and sponsorship, encouraging flexible work arrangements, and providing leadership development opportunities, businesses can attract and retain a more diverse workforce. Embracing gender diversity not only promotes fairness and equality but also drives innovation, enhances decision-making, and positively impacts the bottom line. By implementing these strategies, organisations can create an inclusive and empowering environment that attracts talented women and enables them to thrive in their careers, contributing to a stronger and more successful future for the UK workforce as a whole.

#GenderDiversity #UKWorkforce #InclusionMatters #EqualOpportunities #BreakingBarriers #EmpoweringWomen #InclusiveHiring #ReturnshipPrograms #FlexibleWorkArrangements #LeadershipDevelopment
This article was first published on 13/6/23.

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About the author


Darryl is a Chartered CIPD Member, business leader and operational manager with 30 years experience in on-the-ground and strategic HR, specialising in Human Resources Management, Employment Law, Employee Relations and Learning & Development.


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