A group of students laughing in Guildhall square

Positive Choices

Advice on finding opportunities, support organisations and networks relating to sex gender issues

In this guide we highlight ways in which to find inclusive employers and opportunities, no matter your sex or gender identity. 

We recognise that sex and gender identity are two distinct characteristics, and both are protected by the 2010 Equality Act. This means that employers legally cannot discriminate against someone based on their sex or gender identity.

Sex refers to your biological characteristics, and encompasses male, female, and intersex bodies. 

Gender refers to the way a person identifies themselves, which can differ from their sex. People who identify with a gender which differs from their sex may refer to themselves as transgender, although there are other terms which may be preferred depending on the person’s identity. For example, some people who do not identify as a man or woman prefer the term non-binary, whereas others prefer the term gender fluid. 

Attitudes towards sex and gender in the workplace have improved over time, but many may experience anxiety about disclosing their sex or gender, or experiencing discrimination at work.

Sex and gender discrimination

Sex discrimination is a term which describes a person being treated differently because of their sex. This can encompass many different behaviours and situations, and in some circumstances can be considered lawful. Equality Human Rights gives further information on differing types of sex discrimination and its relation to the law.

Gender discrimination is a term which describes a person being treated differently due to their gender identity. Further information on gender reassignment discrimination and the law surrounding this can be found through Equality Human.

Employers have equal opportunities policies in place to prevent gender discrimination and are working to address the gender pay gap and other inequalities that prevent women from progressing in the workplace, for example. Equal pay for people doing the same job is a legal requirement but the gender pay gap is a more complex issue. The differences in pay are due to many reasons, including the number of men having better access to senior roles compared to women securing senior roles or entering higher-paid careers. 

Making choices about your future career path shouldn’t be influenced by your sex or gender identity. In this employment guide we're sharing advice on how you can find opportunities and inclusive employers that promote positions for women, as well as how to disclose your gender identity to employers as a trans person. 


Employers are now more frequently looking to diversify their workforce, and may offer recruitment initiatives to offer opportunities to boost their sex and gender representation. They are often intended to increase the number of applications they receive from under-represented groups, with a view to increasing the diversity of their workforce. 

  • The Times Top 50 Employers for Women - A list of employers with a commitment to gender equality.

  • STEM Women - Regular careers events for students and graduates studying STEM subjects who identify as women.

  • Future Female Engineers - TargetJobs runs employability events to help you build networks and connect with recruiters in the engineering sector.

  • IT’s not just for the boys - TargetJobs runs employability events with opportunities for networking and finding out about roles in the tech industry.

  • Proud Employers - A jobsite for LGBT people aiming to help candidates find roles with organisations committed to diversity and inclusion for their employees.

  • The Workplace Equality Index - A list of the 100 most LGBTQ+ inclusive organisations in the UK.

  • DiversCity in Law - Event for students interested in a career as a lawyer in the city. 

Workplace and pay progression

Getting to a senior or managerial position in your career can take time and a lot of hard work, but it is also an opportunity to progress in a career that you are passionate about. These kinds of roles give you more responsibility and can also be an opportunity to make an impact in the wider sector by sharing your wide depth of knowledge and experience to others. 

Many graduate schemes offer a fast-track to senior roles by equipping you the necessary skills such as leadership and management skills. The Civil Service Fast Stream offers a variety of opportunities to help develop graduates to become future leaders in the Civil Service to tackle society’s biggest challenges.

Graduate schemes aren’t the only way to progress your career, as many people aim to progress after spending some time in their current role and applying for roles above their current ranking once they have built their experience. However, some people may feel a lack of confidence that prevents them from progressing in their career. Other barriers to progression are reflected in gender pay gaps which represent how women, on average, earn relatively less than men. This is presented by charities such as The Fawcett Society who aim to equip and empower women with the knowledge and skills to overcome these barriers. 

Much research has been undertaken to address the lack of workplace progression of women compared to their male counterparts. Women are less likely to progress out of junior roles into senior roles which are explained by a number of barriers, including structural and societal gender biases during recruitment, appointment, reward and promotion processes. Women with children or care responsibilities are also more likely to work part-time due to taking on the ‘dual-labour’ role as the primary care figure outside of the workplace. This is just a snapshot of some of the barriers women are more likely to face that are drivers towards the widely observed gender pay gap.

The gender pay gap is not the same as unequal pay. The cause is not a result of employers choosing to pay women less than men doing the work of equal value. Rather it is a result of structural and societal factors that prevent women from progressing in their career. 

Workplaces should foster an environment that allows women to feel confident enough to progress and best utilise their skills and experience. Employers should also address the recruitment and retention processes to help attract and retain talent.

Career progression tips

Here are just a few of the actions you can do to take control of your career progression:

  1. Have a strong CV that addresses your relevant and transferable skills. This should be reviewed for each job you apply for to reflect the requirements of the job role. Show evidence of important skills such as leadership, decision-making, negotiation and teamwork. Check out our CV Writing Toolkit, or book an appointment with one of our advisors to review your CV.
  2. Network inside and outside of your organisation. Get to know the right people and impress them with your work. Using LinkedIn can be one of the best ways to self-promote to attract employers. Make sure you follow people and employers in the same field as you. Check out our LinkedIn Guide for further support.
  3. Find a mentor who is currently in a senior position. They can share their experiences and offer advice to help you progress professionally, if a strong relationship is shared. If you don’t know anyone personally who you would like to mentor you, express your interest in networking opportunities and LinkedIn.
  4. Just because you don’t meet every single job specification, do not let that put you off from applying. According to the LinkedIn Gender Insights Report, women apply for 20% fewer jobs than men because women feel they need to 100% qualify for the role they apply for, compared to men who usually apply after meeting 60% of the job requirements. In your application, you should express your interest in developing new skills that you don’t currently possess as well as proving your abilities in the skills and experience you do have!
  5. Take on new challenges where possible! Whether that’s getting involved in a project or finding an opportunity to lead one, finding ways to utilise your skills and develop new ones will help build your experience and boost your chances of getting noticed by your current or future employer.
  6. Do extra courses to gain new skills. First, establish what skills you need to develop depending on the kind of job you want - is there an opportunity to gain these skills in your current work environment? LinkedIn Learning is also a useful tool where you can find thousands of short or longer courses to develop specific skills, and is free for students. If confidence is holding you back, look for training courses to help you recognise your strengths and boost resilience.
  7. Discover your earning potential using The Pay Index. This tool allows you to compare your pay to the same roles across the sector and can be used as leverage to argue for a pay increase. If you feel comfortable enough to do so, start a conversation with your colleagues and peers on their pay to see if you are being under-paid or get some advice on asking for a pay increase.

What to look for when researching employers

Do some research about companies that interest you, look at their commitment to diversity and inclusion in their workforce. It may also be useful to research if there are support networks for staff, such as women's networks and LGBTQIA+ networks. This can typically be found on their company website, including their strategic priorities and work values.

You can look at gender representation in their organisation too by researching their website and social media profiles, including LinkedIn.

Employers may also provide case studies and talk about initiatives they've put in place to support and encourage applicants. Our guide to researching an employer will help you get started.

The Fawcett Society is a charity organisation that advocates for equality in the workplace, and particularly addresses factors that contribute to employment and pay gaps. Their research and campaigning provides an insight of the experiences of women accessing the same opportunities as men and the barriers they face, their website also provides a resource on what to look out for in an inclusive employer, including a Equal Pay Advice Service.

Some employers have taken the 'Show the salary' pledge with the aim to stop pay disparities and ensure everyone can access a fair wage. You can find if an employer has taken this pledge on the job description or their website.

What do you need to tell a potential employer

There's no legal requirement for you to disclose your sex or gender to an employer. Frequently more employers are using blind recruitment in their hiring process which is intended to remove implicit bias and increase the fairness of the application process.

Additionally, many employers will include a diversity monitoring questionnaire as part of the application process. The information you supply is confidential and will not be shared with anyone involved in the selection process or your future line manager, but you should always have the opportunity to indicate ‘prefer not to say'. The priority within your application and interview should be to present your skills and experiences in the most positive light. 

There are benefits to disclosing your gender as a transgender person in the workplace to ensure you feel safe and comfortable. For example, you may find it particularly necessary if you go by certain pronouns to ensure your colleagues understand and use them correctly. 

Not all transgender people physically transition to the gender they assign themselves. However if you are transitioning - also known as gender reassignment - some employers have policies that allow you to take time off for medical appointments. The Equality Act 2010 recognises this and requires that transgender people should not be treated any less favourably than if absence is due to illness or injury, for example. 

You can also have a discussion with your manager about use of single sex facilities and what one you feel most comfortable using. Some workplaces have gender neutral facilities such as toilets.

All employees have the right to 52 weeks maternity leave and you may qualify for maternity pay. As well as this, your employer should support you during your pregnancy whilst you are still working. You should make it clear to your employer what kind of adjustments you may need to make, such as having flexibility over medical appointments, for example. Check an employer's policies around pregnancy and maternity leave.

An employer should not assume that you are unable to carry out an expected level of work during your pregnancy, and this could result in pregnancy discrimination. You may find it beneficial to have an open discussion about adjustments and workload if you need it, and this may change during your pregnancy. 

Organisations such as Maternity Action and Pregnant Then Screwed are dedicated maternity right’s charities in the UK who promote and protect the rights of all pregnant women and new mothers. They provide advice and guidance if you have worries about pregnancy discrimination.

Support organisations and networks

Although employers have policies and support in place if a staff member is experiencing discrimination in the workplace, their are lots of support services and organisations that support individuals who are being discriminated in the workplace. The following organisations provide additional information and advice on sex discrimination and equal pay:

  • ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) - an organisation focused on offering impartial advice and resources to workers.
  • Citizens Advice - an organisation which offers advice and information on a wide range of topics, including work and your rights surrounding this.
  • Equality Act 2010 - legislation which outlines which characteristics are protected by law, and rights surrounding this.
  • Young Women’s Trust - an organisation working to achieve economic justice for women which campaigns and offers coaching.
  • Unison - the UK’s largest union, which provides support to members on a variety of work related issues.
  • Gendered Intelligence - a charity which aims to increase awareness of gender identity and offers a range of services.
  • Smart Works - a UK charity helping to give women confidence so secure employment.
  • Stonewall - an organisation centred on LGBTQ+ rights which campaigns and provides help and advice.
  • Galop - a charity which supports LGBT+ individuals who have experienced abuse or violence.
  • Girl Up - an organisation which aims to advance women’s skills, rights, and opportunities.
  • The Fawcett Society - a charity that advocates for sex and gender equality in the workplace.
  • Maternity Action - a charity that promotes, protects and enhances the rights of all pregnant women, new mothers and their families, including employment.
  • myGwork -  is the business community for LGBTQ+ professionals, students, inclusive employers and anyone who believes in workplace equality. Includes a list of LGBTQ+ inclusive organisations and a jobs board.