Skip to main content


Gender Taskforce launches on International Women’s Day

8 Mar 2024

Leading businesses join forces to narrow the UK’s gender number confidence gap

A teacher and student doing maths on a whiteboard

Independent charity National Numeracy and a pioneering group of organisations are coming together to address the UK’s gender number confidence gap, with the launch of the Gender Taskforce

As a nation, the UK’s numeracy levels are significantly below the average for developed countries. And nearly half the working-age population has the expected numeracy level of a primary school child.

Low numeracy – whether low number skills or confidence – can have wide-ranging damage on our work and personal lives. And recent research has revealed an alarming gap in number confidence between girls and boys, with 54% of British girls not feeling confident learning maths, compared to 41% of boys.

Numerous academic studies show there is no gender component to maths ability, and despite lacking the confidence of boys in STEM subjects, girls often outperform their male counterparts in maths and science subjects at GCSE level. Yet fewer girls pursue STEM subjects at A-Level, and women consistently report that they are less number confident than men.

Having low number confidence affects aspirations, limits educational and career choices, and can prevent women from accessing learning and applying for jobs in key sectors of the UK economy. Recent research from National Numeracy revealed that nearly three times more women (59%) than men (21%) report that their earnings have been negatively impacted as a result of not having a Level 2 maths qualification.

Everyone can improve their numeracy

The single greatest factor associated with successfully improving number skills is having a growth mindset – in other words, believing that doing so is possible. But the numeracy levels of the nation as a whole cannot improve without addressing this key group.

Enabling better outcomes and opportunities for women and girls is a key priority for many businesses and organisations, and indeed the world, with gender equality and empowerment enshrined within the Sustainable Development Goals.

To enable better opportunities for women and girls, the Gender Taskforce will collaborate to:

  • raise awareness of the gender number confidence gap
  • create and publish a set of recommendations for how businesses and civil society can address the number confidence gap
  • drive action in addressing the issue nationally

By confronting the obstacles to maths learning and how we support those on their number confidence journey, brighter futures can be achieved for all.

Lucy Marie-Hagues, CEO of Capital One UK and Chair of the Gender Taskforce said: “I am determined to make sure that girls and young women recognise their own immense potential when it comes to working with numbers. That’s why I’m delighted that we, Capital One, are partnering with National Numeracy and other businesses to help to inspire them and build their confidence. We need collective action to address the gender gap that exists when it comes to number confidence, so that everyone can achieve their fullest potential at school and in the workplace.”

Sam Sims, CEO of National Numeracy said: “Low confidence with numbers is holding people back – disproportionately affecting women and girls – and this acts as a barrier to learning, financial independence, careers and broader life opportunities. We believe that everyone can improve their numeracy, but we cannot improve the numeracy of the nation without addressing the yawning gender divide when it comes to number confidence. We are delighted to be working with the country’s leading businesses and organisations to tackle this pervasive problem and open up opportunities for all.”

Gender Taskforce founding members:

  • Lucy-Marie Hagues, Chief Executive Officer, Capital One UK
  • Clare Francis, Director of Savings and Investments in Barclays Wealth Management Business, Barclays
  • Dave Richards, Head of CSR and Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging, Capital One UK
  • Sarah Redman, Head of Delivery, Experian
  • Matt Bentall, Head of Programmes, The Lord Mayor’s Appeal
  • Jules Buet, Project Lead, Maths4Girls
  • Sue Macmillan, Chief Operating Officer, Mumsnet and Gransnet
  • Perdita Fraser, Chair of Trustees, National Numeracy
  • Fay Lane, National Programme Manager (Apprenticeships) and Apprenticeship Relationship Manager (North East and Yorkshire), NHS England
  • Jessica Smith, Principal/Associate Partner in Public Policy, People and Organisational Performance Practices, Oliver Wyman
  • Rachel Proudfoot, Workplace Savings Propositions Manager, Scottish Widows
  • Claire Bridel, Chief Operating Officer of Liquidnet Division, TP ICAP
  • Cathy Prior, Social Impact Manager (Education), Vanquis Banking Group

Gender Taskforce founding members say:

Clare Francis, Director of Savings and Investments in Barclays Wealth Management Business, Barclays: "Lack of confidence in numeracy skills can really hold people back, disproportionately so for women, especially when it comes to securing career opportunities. Through Barclays LifeSkills we see how getting the right support has a significant, positive impact on things like money management and personal finance. I'm proud to be joining the Gender Taskforce as we build on the partnership we have with National Numeracy and help empower women and girls with confidence they need, supporting them to take hold of every opportunity and reach their full potential."

Sarah Redman, Head of Delivery, Experian: “Experian’s goal is to provide financial health for all and a large part of that starts with numeracy skills. Experian has been a long-time partner to National Numeracy and at Experian we recognise the strengths behind a diverse workforce. It is with this in mind that we are committed to working with National Numeracy to improve number confidence within women, to encourage more women to step forward into STEM roles and to support universal financial health. And as a mother of two young children, I am passionate about their education and giving them a great start in life. I can see how confidence issues can stem from a young age and I’d love to be a part of a task force that tackles this head on.”

Matt Bentall, Head of Programmes, The Lord Mayor’s Appeal: “At The Lord Mayor’s Appeal we are committed to creating ‘A Better City for All’, one that is inclusive, healthy, skilled and fair. By joining the Gender Taskforce and addressing the gender number confidence gap, we hope to further our ambition of ensuring women are empowered, and equipped with the necessary skills, to make informed decisions about their careers and boost women’s confidence.”

Jules Buet, Project Lead, Maths4Girls: “Maths4Girls is a charity dedicated to working with 11 to 14-year-old girls to encourage them to pursue maths beyond GCSEs. One big aspect of our work is to boost the confidence in girls' ability in maths, showing them role models that talk about their struggles, their failures and persevering nonetheless is an important part of the encounters we organise to show them that the vast majority of people have failed at some point in their lives and that this is a normal part of learning. Girls tend to also be much less aware of the importance of maths and numeracy in the workplace, this is something that they tend to find out too late: once they have left education and may be struggling to find work. While it is completely possible to bridge that gap as an adult, it is significantly more difficult than as a teenager. We are proud to support the Gender Taskforce to help close the confidence gap that exists in maths because it is a key part of the fight for gender equality that will have lasting effect on future generations as well: confident women tend to raise confident daughters!”

Sue Macmillan, Chief Operating Officer, Mumsnet and Gransnet: “Every day on Mumsnet we hear from women whose lack of confidence with numbers affects everything from their willingness to talk about finances in a relationship to their ability to help their children with homework.  The gender number confidence gap isn't an abstract concept – it has very real consequences for our users in everyday life. That's why we're joining the Gender Taskforce – to help confront this issue and tackle the negative consequences of low numeracy for women and girls.”

Fay Lane, National Programme Manager (Apprenticeships) and Apprenticeship Relationship Manager (North East and Yorkshire), NHS England: “The National Numeracy research published in 2023 had striking significance for the NHS, where 77% of the workforce are female. It is crucial for us to address the issue of low number confidence among women, as it directly impacts their career progression and overall learning outcomes. As the NHS we have a responsibility to ensure that all our staff feel confident in their maths abilities. And this is why we are thrilled to be part of the National Numeracy Gender Taskforce, so we can work towards closing the gender number confidence gap in the UK and create an inclusive and supportive environment for our staff.”

Jessica Smith, Principal/Associate Partner in Public Policy, People and Organisational Performance Practices, Oliver Wyman: “Oliver Wyman is proud of its ongoing relationship with National Numeracy and the impact achieved together. We are also deeply committed to supporting women in their professional development across all industries. We believe the Gender Taskforce will be an excellent opportunity to further build on this commitment. Throughout my career I’ve always been excited about helping people build their confidence in maths and sciences and been grateful for having role models who have helped me build my own. From early in my career in engineering and as a maths tutor, to more recently working in organisational performance I’ve seen the huge impact targeted initiatives and support can have – and am excited about supporting this through the taskforce!”

Rachel Proudfoot, Workplace Savings Propositions Manager, Scottish Widows: "I am delighted to be part of the National Numeracy Gender Taskforce as this is an issue I am personally very passionate about. In this day and age, there is no reason for such a gap in skillset given the volume of resources that are available. However, more needs to be done to ensure these resources become more accessible to give people the support they need. At Scottish Widows, we aim to help people save for their future, but recognise that a change in mindset and greater education is vital to this. We already do a lot to support women in retirement and raise awareness and drive change to close the gender pensions gap, which better numeracy education and confidence plays a key role in."

Claire Bridel, Chief Operating Officer of Liquidnet Division, TP ICAP: “As a strategic partner of National Numeracy, and numbers people ourselves, we understand the importance of numeracy as a driver of social mobility. The gender number confidence gap is a barrier to opportunity for many women, that can impact their work and personal lives. As an employer in the financial services sector, we are keen to see more women forging careers in the industry. This begins with women and girls feeling confident with numbers. We are excited to join National Numeracy’s Gender Taskforce to work with partners across the industry and drive awareness and action on this issue.”

Cathy Prior, Social Impact Manager (Education), Vanquis Banking Group: “At Vanquis Banking Group, we are dedicated to boosting the numeracy rates of the nation and closing the gender number confidence gap to achieve social and financial inclusion for everyone. Having overcome my own struggles with maths, I want to empower other women to find the confidence to do the same and shape a banking landscape where everyone can thrive.”

Get involved:

If you would like to learn more about the Taskforce or how to get involved in addressing the gender number confidence gap, please contact Siân Devine, Partnerships Manager at National Numeracy:

[email protected]

For press enquiries, please contact the National Numeracy Communications Team:

[email protected]