Employment statistics – a gender issue?

In a widely read Wall Street Journal blog post, Carrie Lukas, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum, a radical right-wing US lobby group, argues there is no longer a wage gap between men and women.

She claims that the unemployment rate in the US is “consistently higher among men than among women”, rationalising this by the fact men are employed more in areas badly hit by the weak economy – areas such as trucking and construction – while women’s jobs are protected in areas such as teaching and healthcare.

In the UK, employment figures released this week show that the number of unemployed men fell by 31,000 to 1.45m, while the number of unemployed women rose by 14,000 to just more than a million. While the number of men claiming jobseekers’ allowance has fallen for 14 consecutive months, the number of female claimants has risen for nine months in a row.

One theory is that in the UK, most job losses are now in the public sector, which employs a disproportionate number of women. (The Office for National Statistics’ latest figures, for 2004, show that 65 per cent of public sector employees at the time were women, compared with 41 per cent of private sector staff.)

This is the opposite of Lukas’ argument that the public sector is a safe haven for jobs – and the women holding them.

In Wednesday’s FT, Brian Groom, business and employment editor, argued that the rise in female claimants “was caused by female claimants switching from lone parent income support because of benefit changes”. That does not explain the previous eight months’ increases, though.

Three years ago, Lord Alan Sugar, the millionaire entrepreneur, famously argued that the UK’s equality laws made employers less likely to hire a woman. He said: “That’s the bottom line, you’re not allowed to ask [women about their plans to have children], so it’s easy – just don’t employ them.”

Do these figures show that men are indeed “winning” the race for jobs or that more women are claiming benefits due to generally increasing pressures on family finances? What is your experience?

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

The 'Women at the Top' blog is part of a series of online and print publications that focuses on women's achievements in business. With up-to-date news and incisive analysis, the blog will provoke discussion on the role of the world's most prominent businesswomen. www.ft.com/womenblog

For more Women at the Top news, video interviews and other features, visit www.ft.com/womenatthetop


About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.