The Government has launched a drive to get more women into male dominated sectors such as IT, construction and engineering.
Trade and industry secretary and women's minister, Patricia Hewitt, announced the proposals, which are aimed at closing the gender pay gap and addressing skills shortages across industry.
The plans will see careers advisers offering more information about traditionally male jobs to schoolgirls and advising those who want to work in these sectors.
New research from the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), Britain's Competitive Edge: women, unlocking the potential, found that only 15 per cent of girls and boys received any advice on work placements in areas dominated by the other sex.
The study found that two-thirds of young women said they would have considered a wider range of career options had they been aware of the differences in pay rates for women.
Hewitt said this meant six out of 10 working women were concentrated in just 10 occupations which typically paid the least.
"This is not only damaging to women, but to employers and to the economy," she said. "Employ-ers are, in effect, only recruiting from half of the population."
The Government will also promote adult education 'taster courses' for men and women in non-traditional subjects, such as plumbing for women, and childcare for men and will make more funding available for universities to help female science and engineering graduates find jobs.
John Cridland, deputy director general at the CBI, said addressing the pay gap and gender discrimination had to be made part of the Government's and the nation's productivity agenda.
"That is what will turn employers on," he said.
Frances O'Grady, TUC deputy general secretary, added that more men would not be persuaded to enter traditionally female-dominated professions with skills crises, such as caring, until questions around low pay had been addressed.