Reflecting on Women’s History Month: The Vital Role of Women in the Workforce

As March unfolded, the world celebrated International Women’s History Month, and International Women’s Day on the 8th. We saw so many amazing pieces of content online and across social media, and some of the information we learned was truly f*cking insane. Now the month of awareness is over, we wanted to reflect on the remarkable journey of women in business and work, celebrating their advancements in rights, laws, and societal roles. Keep reading for some shockers!

Industrial Revolution and Suffrage Movement

Industrial Revolution and Suffrage Movement: The Industrial Revolution catalysed MAJOR shifts in labour dynamics, drawing women into factories and workplaces. Despite their contributions, women still faced unequal pay and limited job opportunities. The late 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed the rise of the Suffrage movement, advocating for women’s right to vote amongst other vital societal participations.

Post-World War Era:

World War II saw a massive influx in women entering the workforce to fill roles left vacant by men sent off to war. This period marked significant progress, yet post-war expectations nudged many women back into traditional roles. Positions were open in the newly established National Health Service for roles including nurses, midwives, cleaners, and clerical staff. The banking, textile, and electronics industries, experienced growth too, offering women opportunities in clerical, secretarial, and assembly work. Despite these openings, job segregation by gender persisted, with routine, repetitive tasks designated as “women’s work,” often resulting in lower wages for female employees. During the early 1950s, numerous employers enforced a ‘Marriage Bar,’ prohibiting married women from certain occupations such as teaching and clerical roles (excluding lower-paid positions), and terminating the employment of those who married while working.

The Second Wave

In the UK during the 1960s and 70s, the second wave of feminism brought about notable changes. The introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970 aimed to address gender-based wage disparities, following advocacy from women’s groups and activists like Barbara Castle. Additionally, the passing of the Abortion Act in 1967 legalised abortion under certain conditions, thanks to the efforts of campaigners such as the National Abortion Campaign and individuals like Diane Munday. These legislative victories marked significant milestones in the fight for women’s rights and equality in the UK.

Women machinists at the Ford Motor Company plant in Dagenham took strike action on 7 June 1968 for equal pay. The women won a pay increase to 92% of men's wages. - Pat Mantle TUC Collection, London Metropolitan University
Women machinists at the Ford Motor Company plant in Dagenham took strike action on 7 June 1968 for equal pay. The women won a pay increase to 92% of men’s wages. – Pat Mantle TUC Collection, London Metropolitan University

Legislative Strides and Glass Ceilings:

Landmark legislation such as the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 in the UK aimed to address workplace discrimination. Similarly, in the United States, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 were brought in to fight gender-based discrimination in employment.

As a result of these legislative changes, women began breaking glass ceilings everywhere. In the UK, notable achievements include Barbara Mills becoming the first female Director of Public Prosecutions in 1992 . These milestones marked significant progress in challenging traditional gender norms and fostering greater gender equality in the legal profession and beyond.

Celebrating Progress

Today, we celebrate the remarkable progress made by women in business and work – because let’s be real, we’ve come a LONG WAY. Millions of female entrepreneurs are launching innovative startups, while leaders like Ursula Burns and Sheryl Sandberg inspire future generations. Women’s labour force participation rates have surged, and educational levels continue to rise. Shall we look at some numbers?

  • Women now outnumber men in third-level education globally, except for Africa where men still hold a slight edge.
  • Since 1991, women have been advancing into managerial roles at a faster rate than men, especially in high-income countries.
  • The proportion of female Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK’s House of Commons has been steadily increasing since 1979, growing from just three percent to 34 percent in 2019.
  • In 2023, sectors such as transport, health, and insurance saw over 40 percent representation of women on their boards.
  • The percentage of self-employed workers who are women rose from 27% in 2007 to 37% by the end of 2022.
  • FTSE 350 companies have met their target of 40% Women on Boards three years ahead of the 2025 deadline.
  • In the UK alone, there are 611,000 solo self-employed mothers, half of whom (302,000) work as freelancers. The number of solo self-employed mothers increased by 61 percent between 2008 and 2020.
  • According to the United Nations’ UN Women division, 30 women were serving as Heads of State and/or Government in 28 countries as of September 19, 2022.

Why Gender Equality is Good Business

The advantages of achieving gender balance in workplaces are becoming increasingly evident. According to a survey conducted by the ILO, two-thirds of companies acknowledged that diversity initiatives have positively impacted their business performance. Businesses with inclusive cultures and policies stand to benefit in various ways:

  • They have a 63% higher likelihood of experiencing increased profitability and productivity.
  • They are 60% more likely to attract and retain top talent.
  • They demonstrate a 59% greater capacity for creativity, innovation, and openness.
  • They enjoy a 58% boost in company reputation.
  • They show a 38% improvement in their ability to understand consumer interests and demands.
  • They make better business decisions up to 87% of the time
Businesses with inclusive cultures and policies found that they were 60% more likely to find and retain top talent for their team

Acknowledging Challenges Ahead

Despite the progress, inequality remains a pervasive issue. Gender pay gaps persist across industries, with women of colour, in particular, facing compounded discrimination. Barriers to leadership positions and workplace harassment continue to impede progress. So, the fight for gender equality in business is far from over. Here’s four facts that will (hopefully) be pretty enraging:

  • There are more men named James & John, than women CEOs in the S&P 500 (The Standard and Poor’s 500)
  • Only 32% of UK MPs are women Only 17% of SMEs are majority led by women – Of these, only 1% of venture funding goes to businesses founded by all-female teams.
  • Fewer than 10 per cent of CEOs at UK FTSE 350 companies are female, according to a new study on the scale of gender disparity in business.
  • Women-owned businesses win less than 5% of corporate and public sector contracts. Recent evidence from the UK Survey of SME Finances reported that women were charged more than men on term loans (2.9% vs. 1.9%).
  • Recent research indicates that, even with both partners working full-time, women predominantly handle household work. Shockingly, 8 out of 10 married women do more housework than their spouses. Dr. Sullivan of the University of Oxford predicts that this trend will persist until at least the 2050s.
Fewer than 10 per cent of CEOs at UK FTSE 350 companies are female

Women in Finance

The finance and insurance industry in the United Kingdom has historically held one of the widest gender pay gaps among sectors. This is underscored by the sector’s gender pay gap in 2023, which was nearly double the national average. In April 2017, legislation meant that all companies with 250 or more employees in the UK had to disclose specific data on their gender pay gap. This regulation sought not only to prompt larger companies toward gender equality but also to encourage organisations to address and narrow the gender pay gap.

Average gender pay gap in the UK finance and insurance sectors

Gendered Ageism and Menopause in the Workplace

Rikia Birindelli-Fayne shed light on a crucial but often overlooked aspect of women’s careers in one of her blogs: the impact of menopause in the workplace. Despite its widespread effects, discussions around menopause have only recently gained traction, with the UK apparently emerging as a pioneer in addressing this issue. However, across Europe, many companies are still struggling with this topic.

Are you a business owner? Here’s how you can help:

Fighting against gender inequality will result in greater employee retention rate and a diverse workforce – and there are many ways to push towards equality:

  • Flexible working
  • Equal pay,
  • Implementing dignity and respect
  • Better policies on parental leave

As we commemorate Women’s History Month, let’s honor the resilience and achievements of women throughout time. Let’s also recommit ourselves to breaking down those barriers and creating inclusive workplaces where every woman can thrive (coming from a 75% female office, we can vouch for women being ESSENTIAL to any team).

Read Rikia’s insightful blog here: 

‘As women over 50 participate more in the workforce, employers must help fight the stigma of the menopause’

To view a range of roles we’re currently hiring for, please visit the following link to our jobs page!

Mortgage, protection, finance roles and more – Jobs – Placing Faces

Applying for new jobs? Read our blog on CV Writing. We’re here to help!

CV Writing: High-Impact Resumes For Success In The Mortgage Industry – Placing Faces

If you’re interested in working with us, click the link below!

Work With Us – Placing Faces

Keep up with us on social media –

Instagram – PLACING FACES 👥 ( • Instagram photos and videos

Facebook –

LinkedIn –


ILO enterprise survey, 2018.

ONS March 2023