Female students fear their gender will influence their pay and career progression in later life

London, 21 April 2016 – Female students are significantly more likely than their male peers to believe that gender will influence pay and career progression, according to the results of the first national Think Future Study from the 30% Club and KPMG. The study, conceived by Cambridge undergraduate Helena Eccles, launched in November 2015 at 21 universities and polled over 20,000 students.

Significantly less than half of women (43%) were confident that their gender would have no impact on pay and reward, compared to 73% of men, and only 42% of women felt confident that their career progression would not be impacted by their gender, compared to 72% of men.

The study also showed that nearly half (48%) of all respondents felt that a sector’s reputation for gender equality would influence their decision about working in it.

Brenda Trenowden, Global Chair of the 30% Club, said:

“The fact that less than half of women feel confident in their chances of receiving equal pay to men even before they enter the work place is a striking statistic. The findings also highlight the stubborn issue of “gendered” sectors which continues to restrict talent pools in certain industries. Financial services, for example, was the 4th most popular sector choice for men and only the 12th most popular choice for women. Most significantly, the study’s insights into the mind-set and motivations of the current student population clearly underline a pressing need to think more innovatively about talent management and about how we can better support and inform the early slice of the pipeline before it hits the workplace.”

Melanie Richards, Vice Chairman of KPMG UK and a member of the 30% Club Steering Committee, said:

“It is concerning that women are considerably less optimistic than men about their future career prospects. As business leaders we need to play an active role to promote gender parity, bust these myths and recast the image we are projecting to attract the best talent, regardless of their gender. Within our own firm this includes setting targets to recruit, promote and bring through female talent.

“We know better commercial performance comes from the innovation that happens between different people, and we want to recruit graduates from a wider range of backgrounds and disciplines. Having a more diverse workforce gives us a better array of viewpoints on client matters and challenge around our actions.”

When it came to entering the working world, 93% of current students – known as ‘Generation Z’ – placed importance on a job with purpose, while only 72% placed importance on a high salary. The top three priorities for job satisfaction were ‘Finding a job they enjoy’, ‘Having time to spend with family and friends’ and ‘Being intellectually fulfilled’. Conversely, ‘Finding a well-paid job’ ranked seventh on the list of eleven options. ‘Getting to the top of my chosen career’ was the least important.

Helena Eccles, the founder of the Think Future Study and an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge commented:

“Generation Z students are driven by a ‘profit with purpose’ mentality – they want to do worthwhile work and be rewarded well for their contribution to society. This new cohort of students, who are about to enter the working world, have a different set of wants, needs and aspirations and businesses need to readily adapt to these demands.”

Brenda Trenowden commented:

“These preferences represent a major culture shift that companies will need to address in order to attract and retain top talent.”

Despite the challenges revealed by the results of the study, responses from students also showed a positive attitude towards their universities, with 77% feeling well supported by university staff to succeed in their degree. Meanwhile, 64% felt fully included in university life and 74% felt that they were fairly evaluated for their exams and coursework. 85% of women believed that men and women were treated equally at their university.

Professor Janet Beer, Vice Chancellor of Liverpool University, commented:

“Universities are taking their commitment to provide students with opportunities to enhance their social and economic capital well beyond the academic experience very seriously.  

“This includes offering work-based learning, both as part of accredited learning and as extra-curricular activity, to offer students insight into the workplace and the range of careers available to them. We want to provide learning and experiences which raise aspirations and equip individuals with the knowledge and skills employers want.”

The findings from the Think Future Study were presented at the 30% Club’s annual Higher Education Seminar, held today at the Canary Wharf Accelerator Hub, One Canada Square.


For press enquiries please contact

Zoe Sheppard, Senior PR Manager at KPMG: +44 (0)117 905 4337 



About KPMG

KPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 12,000 partners and staff.  The UK firm recorded a revenue of £1.96 billion in the year ended September 2015. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. It operates in 155 countries and has 174,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity.  Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.