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There’s a war on women thriving in UK workplaces

Brooke Vandenberg - Recruitment Correspondent

Almost a third of women in the UK say that sexual harassment has had an impact on their career, according to recruiter Randstad UK. In a poll of more than 6,000 working adults in the UK, a third of women (32 per cent) said it had had “a lot” or “some impact” on their careers while another 16 per cent said it had a “small effect”.

The research also surveyed the views of 190 non-binary people, including those who identify as genderfluid, transgender, agender, bigender, and genderqueer.  Of those, 18 per cent said sexual harassment had had “a lot of impact” or “some impact” on their careers – while 14 per cent said it had a “small effect”.

In terms of industries where women were affected to a greater extent, 45 per cent of women in Construction said that sexual harassment had had “a lot of impact” or “some impact” on their careers. Women in Tech also suffered disproportionately with 42 per cent reporting the same.  

Women working in Facilities Management and Education suffered the least with 26 and 29 per cent respectively reporting sexual harassment had had “a lot of impact” or “some impact” on their careers.

Two-thirds of women (67 per cent) said they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace in some form. This was most likely to come in the form of comments or inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues – although being passed over for a promotion was also a common form of gender discrimination.  Women also reported being offered less important roles, being made redundant based on their gender, being excluded from male conversations or social events, and being passed over for particular projects/ work.  

But none of the women polled reported having been bullied as a result of their gender or being paid less than male colleagues – something that has been illegal since 29 December 1975 when the Equal Pay Act 1970 came into force.

Victoria Short, the chief executive of Randstad UK, said: The positive news is that women have been making great strides in the boardroom: 40 per cent of directors on the top boards of UK plc are now women, compared to 12 per cent in 2010.  Parity of board seats is now a realistic prospect in the UK.  

“There is also, perhaps, less organisational bias against women. I hold an executive leadership role at a top recruiter – something that was not an option for my highly intelligent mother. Everything has changed and nothing has changed.

“Outside non-executive boards, lower down the organisation or in smaller businesses, it’s a very different story and these findings reflect that. ”  “The word ‘banter’ has a lot to answer for”, she concluded.

Within different industries, less than a quarter of women in Construction (23 per cent) said they had not experienced any gender discrimination at work. They reported comments and  inappropriate behaviour from male colleagues as well as being excluded from male conversations or social events.  In Facilities Management, however, two-thirds of women (65 per cent) said they had never experienced gender discrimination at work.

On average, workers in the UK reported having 2.1 female managers since they had started working in their particular industry.  In different industries, the average was highest in Education (3.0) and lowest in Construction (1.5).

According to Professor Ruth Sealy of Exeter University’s Business School, “Low representation in leadership roles both reflects and perpetuates women’s lack of equal power and status, demonstrating the need for changes in gender norms to address societal-level gender inequalities.”

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