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Women over 50 in Scotland face barriers to pay and progression

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Employers should increase their monitoring of pay, progression and training by age

According to research by the National Institute of Economic Research, women over 50 in Scotland require greater support in the workplace to address persistent inequalities in pay and progression. The research was conducted on behalf of Scotland’s Fair Work Convention.

Older workers now comprise around a third of the Scottish workforce, with the number set to increase in the coming years. However, existing data shows that women in this age group often experience greater inequalities in pay than younger women in relation to men. The report called for employers to take action to improve the experiences and opportunities for older women at work.

The research report covered women over 50 and employers in two specific sectors in Scotland: the finance/insurance sector; and the information/communications sector.

According to the research, women over 50 face a number of barriers to better pay and progression in the workplace. In particular, the report inferred that employers need to increase opportunities for flexible work for this age group, given that these women often have substantial caring responsibilities for their children, spouses, grandchildren and elderly parents. The report also explored women’s concerns in several areas, including:

  • Recruitment and promotion processes
  • Skill-gaps compared to younger workers
  • Menopause

The research found that while many women are concerned about age discrimination, employers often fail to consider age as an important aspect of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The report recommended that employers should increase their monitoring of pay, progression and training by age. It also suggested that employers would benefit from increased support and guidance in addressing age discrimination in the workplace.

Katharine Stockland, Senior Social Researcher at NIESR, commented: “In order to address these challenges around pay and progression experienced by this group of women, employers must reflect on their workplace practices and consider to what extent their training, support and promotion opportunities reflect the needs of this group of women. Especially in the context of labour shortages that have been driven partly by older workers dropping out of the labour market, employers should act now”.

Mary Alexander and Patricia Findlay, Co-Chairs at Fair Work Convention also made comment: “We know the challenges faced by women at work do not simply start when a woman turns 50. The impacts of workplace policies and practices that systematically disadvantage women build cumulatively over an individual’s career. What this research demonstrates is that the intersection of age and gender is uniquely shaping women’s experiences of work in ways that are leaving older women significantly worse off both in career progression and in pay.”


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