Why is there a lack of female contractors?

Tuesday 17 June 2014

New research from Procorre has shown a startling lack of female contractors when compared to men.

Indeed, while there are now almost one million women choosing this way of working, there are 2.5 million men classed on contractors.

This begs the question why so few females are choosing to go it alone, despite the improved flexibility contracting brings.

Lisa Mangan, relationship manager at Procorre, claims the problem is that becoming self-employed isn't always an easy decision, especially for those with young families who have access to on maternity breaks and childcare support. While the self-employed can claim Maternity Allowance in lieu of getting Statutory Maternity Pay, it is still a loss in income.

However, things could be about to change thanks to the government's reform of the childcare voucher scheme.

Brookson marketing manager Victoria McDonnell commented: "Historically, women with young families have feared becoming self-employment due to the lack of child support offered through the system. This has affected not just the balance between male and female contractors, but the vitality of the sector at large and the work satisfaction levels of women. However, the government's rollout of childcare vouchers and rights to the self-employed mean barriers for females are being taken down.

"We expect something of a deluge of women choosing to become contractors and freelancers in the future as they look to take advantage of flexible working arrangements, stimulating opportunities, high demand and better rates."

It is hoped legislative changes will help to switch the balance, with eight per cent of female self-employed contractors currently recorded, compared to 15.5 per cent of men.

What's more, as the economy strengthens, it is likely people will get the confidence they need to leave their jobs, Ms Mangan said.

Sector-specific work is also needed in some cases in order to help females get the skills they need and rise to the top.

This includes the oil and gas industry, where the lack of women has been acknowledged. The Women in Energy Summit looked at ways to encourage more females to enter the sector, particularly in relation to improving STEM skills.

Globally, there is a lack of women choosing STEM subjects, leaning more towards the arts and humanities. This means that in many contracting sectors, such as energy or engineering, females are often under-represented both in terms of permanent positions and limited company contracting roles.

The Women in Energy Summit raised the issue of this disparity. Callie Zazzi, from Enervest, told audiences that women make up 50 per cent of the United States but just 12 per cent of women in oil and gas.

PwC's 'Building Talent from the Top' also showed that females make up just 11 per cent of seats on the board of directors in the sector. Thirteen per cent of non-executive roles are held by women and just one per cent of executive positions. In the UK, of the eight per cent of seats held by females on management boards, 30 per cent are corporate secretaries or part of legal counsel.

To change this, the industry has pledged to increase diversity through strategic recruiting and it is hoped that by 2020, the percentage of females in the sector will rise to 25 per cent.

By Victoria McDonnell

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