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Making Work Work – for Women Returners: narrowing the Gender Pay Gap and supporting economic recovery in Scotland

18 November 2022

Sunday 20 November 2022 is Equal Pay Day. From this day, women in the UK effectively stop earning relative to men because of the gender pay gap.


One of the reasons for the Gender Pay Gap is that women find it hard to go back to work and progress into higher-paid senior roles after a career break. Women take career breaks for a number of reasons such as maternity, childcare, elderly care, disability, illness, relocation or menopause – and find it difficult to re-enter the workplace in line with their skills, aspirations and potential afterwards. 

Making Work Work

Working with Scottish Government, Skills Development Scotland, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), Flexible Working Scotland and other partners, the Challenges Group has helped 150 women to address these challenges. Making Work Work – for Women Returners is an innovative, award-winning programme which supports women to make empowered transitions back into work that works around their families, commitments and lifestyles. Over 90% of Making Work Work participants require part-time or flexible work and over 70% have an SCQF level 10 or above (honours degree equivalent), while at the same time, 560k women managers are missing in the UK, according to recent CMI research on the Everyone Economy. 

Lynn Houmdi, Making Work Work co-Creator and Programme Manager said: “We work with women who have management experience or aspirations because they have the greatest potential to achieve personal, organisational and social change once they return to work. Employers are missing out on these women’s skills and experience due to perceptions and reality around the flexibility of roles, availability of childcare and bias towards their age/career gaps.” 

Making Work Work – for Women Returners has supported over 150 women during the period January 2021 – November 2022. In August 2022, we were able to analyse the data of 100 women, and our outcomes were as follows:

  • 45% were employed (or had been successful in interviews and would start once their contract was signed), and a further 9% were marked as self-employed (including women starting new businesses). Headline: Over 50% (54%) are either in employment or self-employed.

  • A further 4% were volunteering and 9% were in further training.

  • 13% were actively applying; some of them had interviews scheduled.

  • 4% were not actively searching at that point, due to health reasons, childcare or other personal reasons.

This is a success rate of at least 80% Making Work Work participants progressing into or towards work.

Making Work Work alumna, Zeme said: “Making Work Work for Women Returners equipped me with the confidence I was missing since stopping work two years before when I became a parent. The course helped me learn about the power of networking and peer support. I even heard about the job I am now in through the network I made! The support I received was invaluable. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the course to anyone who has been out of work and is looking for help getting back out there.”

Alumna Lizzy said: “Making Work Work revolutionised my approach to job hunting by giving me support to develop a clear focused strategy, confidence to know what I wanted from a role and a renewed positivity in my own skills.”

Delivering for women, delivering for the Scottish economy

In recent evidence to the Scottish Parliament Covid-19 Recovery committee, Scottish charity, Close the Gap said: “If women are to be enabled to re-enter the labour market, there is need for action to improve access to high-quality flexible working; provide support with caring responsibilities, including greater access to affordable and flexible childcare; develop gender sensitive upskilling and reskilling initiatives; and provide better support for those experiencing long Covid.”

Close the Gap also highlight that tackling gender inequality in Scottish workplaces is worth a potential £17bn to the Scottish economy. By supporting women on their return-to-work journey, Making Work Work not only helps raise family incomes at a time of economic crisis; it also provides the market with a pool of talented and highly experienced women with refreshed skills in management and leadership. This can contribute to economic recovery while increasing diversity in the workforce, and addressing the Gender Pay Gap so that in future an Equal Pay Day becomes a thing of the past.

Any women in Scotland looking to return to work, or employers seeking to diversify their talent pool can get in touch with the Making Work Work team via:

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Contact details

For images, case studies or further testimonials, please contact Lynn Houmdi, The Challenges Group:                

Tel: 07726635612         

Notes to Editors: 

Gender Pay Gap

This year’s UK Equal Pay Day will fall on 20th November, according to The Fawcett Society. It marks the day in the year where women effectively stop earning relative to men because of the gender pay gap.


See: The Fawcett Society announces date of Equal Pay Day 2022 | The Fawcett Society 

The Gender Pay Gap is caused by a lack of women in senior roles, not a lack of women in the workplace. Women with experience need to be able to return to work commensurate with their skills and experience. 

These women need to return to the workplace to earn, but also to improve diversity and innovation in Scotland's businesses, institutions and other organisations to capitalise on the pandemic by normalising part-time and flexible working at senior levels. 

Women on average earn less in full-time employment, across all roles and sectors. In 2021, women working full-time earned 6.6% less than their male counterparts, while part-time women earned on average 26.9% less than men working full-time. Gender Pay Gap – Main problem is lack of women in higher-paid roles.

In the younger age groups the UK GPG far lower. But in age groups of 40 to 49 and above, the gap jumps to 10.9% or over. According to a 2019 ONS analysis this is because after the age of 39 women are less likely to move into higher-paid managerial roles, although these job roles are typically occupied by older workers. This is typically due to bias, discrimination and an inflexibility for those roles to be balanced alongside other commitments women have (such as caring).


See: Gender pay gap in the UK - Office for National Statistics ( 

The Challenges Group/Making Work Work – for Women Returners

The Challenges Group of social businesses has 23 years’ experience of partnering with the private, public and third sectors in 70+ countries to develop enterprising solutions to global challenges. We have over 10 years’ experience designing and delivering work-readiness and professional skills programmes globally, often with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).



Making Work Work – for Women Returners is an innovative and award-winning programme which supports women to make empowered transitions into work which works around all the other commitments and enjoyment of life. Women follow peer-led, online group training over a six-week period, supplemented with a wraparound service consisting of 1:1 mentoring, self-study, Masterclasses and job search support. It is currently funded for women across Scotland by the Scottish Government Women Returners Fund, which is administered by Skills Development Scotland.




Please see the attached infographic for details of Making Work Work’s impact.

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