Although there are now almost one million female contractors, but more than 2.5 million men, with eight per cent of working women aa self-employed contractors, compared to 15.5 per cent of men.
Lisa Mangan, Relationship Manager at Procorre, said: “While it’s great to see almost a million women bringing their skills and expertise to bear for a wide range of clients on a consultancy basis, they are significantly in the minority compared to men.
“On paper, consultancy should be an attractive career choice for more women, given that it offers greater scope for flexibility and potentially a better work-life balance, as well as often comparatively better pay for each hour worked than the average full or part time employed position.
“However, taking the plunge is not always an easy decision, particularly for those with young families who may be concerned that there is less financial support for maternity breaks and childcare compared to their employed peers.”
For example, although the self-employed are entitled to claim Maternity Allowance in place of getting Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), for many this still represents a significant drop in income. By contrast, Mangan points out that many professional employers provide more generous remuneration during maternity leave above and beyond SMP in order to aid retention of key staff.
In addition, childcare vouchers to help with the costs of childcare while parents work are not usually available to the self-employed, although this is set to change next year. The new scheme will be operated through National Savings and Investments rather than through employers.
The recession has also provided more opportunities for those wishing to work part-time, and greater rights to request flexible working in recent years have encouraged many to stay in their jobs and ride out the economic turbulence.
Lisa Mangan said: “As the economic outlook improves and demand for contractors increases, we expect to see more women look again at how consultancy could work for them as a positive career move. It offers a great deal of variety, the chance for rapid career progression and the opportunity to build a career that fits around other commitments.
“The change to the childcare voucher regime should also be significant in encouraging more women to consider making the switch.
“Going self-employed is a big step, which is why we offer comprehensive advice to help people get their consultancy careers off the ground and provide on-going support to ensure they get the most out of this rewarding career choice on an on-going basis."
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2014