Last week, Liz Truss was appointed as the new Prime Minister. Our CEO Claire reflects on the challenges ahead for the government and how they must support young women.
As I know from starting as CEO at Young Women’s Trust earlier this year, new jobs can bring excitement as well as feelings of anxiety. For Truss, a sense of achievement at becoming PM must surely be tempered by the enormity of the task ahead. It is encouraging to see another woman take on the role of Prime Minister and the diverse range of people she has appointed to the top jobs. More important, however, will be how Liz Truss and her team rise to the scale of the challenges facing the country.
Young women are filled with anxiety
The challenges for the new Prime Minister are immense and well-documented. The cost of living crisis threatens to leave people cold and hungry this winter and a looming recession threatens to pile on more misery. No wonder young women have been telling us they are filled with anxiety and dread about their finances and their futures.
Young women are facing huge barriers
These things do not affect everyone equally – and young women face specific challenges. They are more likely to work in sectors most effected by the economic downturn, earn less and have had less opportunity to build up savings to insulate them from crisis.
In her speech, Liz Truss spoke about “getting Britain working” but our research shows that young women are facing huge barriers to work: the cost of childcare, lack of flexible and predictable jobs, and discrimination. This limits their potential, prevents them from making the most of their incredible talents and holds them back from contributing fully to the economic growth the new Prime Minister is so eager to see. These are young women who have so much to offer. They are willing and ready to work but are being locked out of opportunities which leaves a gaping hole in the economy where their talents should be.
We must unlock young women’s potential
To fix the fundamental issues in our economy, we must unlock the enormous potential and talent of young women. Young women are more likely to be working in low paid sectors of the economy, which is why we have been calling for a higher minimum wage for all age groups.
Research from the Resolution Foundation has also shown how young women stay in low-paid work longer and are more likely to move between low-paid jobs rather than progressing to higher wages. Our research shows that young women get access to less training and support and face greater barriers to promotion than young men. So it is vital that the new government do more to ensure young women can access development opportunities that help them progress.
Young women are also held back by a lack of flexible work. When they do find flexibility, it is often poorly paid and provides little security or predictability. Young women are crying out for jobs that fit the reality of their lives and help them to plan for the future. If the government is serious about getting Britain working, it must ensure that jobs are flexible by default and advertised as such. It must also encourage employers to provide predictable work patterns with long-term security.
The Prime Minister called for investment in infrastructure. This means not just roads and railways, but also social infrastructure like childcare, so vital in enabling parents, especially women to work. Too many young women cannot access childcare at the times they need it or at a price they can afford. Ensuring access to childcare is an essential investment if the Prime Minister wants to get the country working.
I wish the new Prime Minister all the best in her new job and if I can offer some words of advice: if she wants to deliver for the country, she will need to deliver for young women.
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