It is around one hundred years ago that Britain began to undergo its last real shake-up in gender and the workplace. With so many men away fighting in the First World War, women began to work in a variety of jobs that were previously held by men. These roles included service jobs such as ticket conductors and milk-delivering, although many of the women also worked dangerous jobs in the munitions factories to support the war effort. Whatever the work that was being done, it sparked a revolution among gender roles as more women found that they wanted to keep working after the end of the war itself. Now, one hundred years later we could be on the verge of a new gender revolution in the workplace – and it is one that actually looks set to bring the working patterns of men and women closer together.
A report from UKCES (the UK Commission for Employment and Skills) on ‘Working Futures’ has predicted that there will be a dramatic rise in the number of men working part time over the next ten years.
This move by men into a working pattern that has traditionally been held by more women will be coupled with the number of women working full-time roles continuing to increase at a pace that outstrips that of the men. This means as more men work part-time, more women will work full time.
The number of male part time workers is set to increase by 20% by 2024 – a rate nearly three times higher than that of women (7%). The reason for this increase is said to be that more men are looking to work flexibly so they can spend more time with their families.
Indeed, many companies are beginning to support flexible working patterns for men in even the most executive positions in order to attract and keep the best employees. Male professional or management staff are even expected to see a 25% increase in the number of part-time workers over the next ten years.
Meanwhile, the UKCES report says that women are set to become increasingly career-minded, with a 7% rise in the number of women working full-time (as compared to just 3% for men).
These forecasts seem to show that men and women will become closer when it comes to the traditional family / work gender roles, but it could also mean a change in the perception of part-time work itself.
Lesley Giles, deputy director at UKCES said, “While part-time work is most common in low paid professions and is largely dominated by women, this report shows the first signs of that trend changing.”
She went on to explain, “The increase in men working flexible hours has been catalysed by the right to shared parental leave, but seems to be gaining traction. Coupled with other changes, like the growth in jobs in sectors traditionally dominated by women, this could represent a real change in the way people work and the way we understand gender roles in the labour market.”
With men and women sharing the work and responsibilities of both their career and family lives it could mean a real positive impact on family and the work / life balance for everyone.