Workplaces are sexist, claim female managers and HR professionals

Survey finds two in five senior women believe sexist behaviour still takes place in their organisation

Despite decades of work to tackle sexual discrimination, almost two out of five women in senior positions describe their workplace as “sexist” according to new research released today.

A YouGov poll of 802 senior HR professionals and people managers revealed that 37 per cent of female respondents across both groups agreed sexist behaviour still existed in their organisation. Just 22 per cent of male HR professionals and managers shared this view.

The poll, commissioned by the Young Women’s Trust charity, also found 9 per cent of male managers claimed men were better suited to management jobs than women and 14 per cent of men said male workers had better IT skills than their female counterparts.

Sexist attitudes are holding a significant number of women back, the survey suggests. More than a quarter (27 per cent) of female managers said it was “harder for women to progress in my organisation than men”, compared to 11 per cent of men who believe this to be the case.

Joe Levenson, communications and campaigns director at the Young Women’s Trust, said: “Far too many women are still having to battle sexism to progress at work. In some cases, sexist attitudes shut women out of the workplace altogether.

“Many employers say they are aware of this. Yet too few are doing anything to end it,” he added.

Levenson said employers needed to “root out sexism in their organisations and give women an equal chance to succeed”.

Responding to the findings, Dr Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said: “Everyone has the right to be treated fairly and respected at work – and it's up to businesses to reinforce that, starting with articulating and promoting the right behaviours and role modelling by senior leaders.”

She added: “Organisations need to ensure their people management and development practices don’t disadvantage women, for example when recruitment or promotion decisions are made, or in designing jobs that are not flexible.”

Companies that want to build inclusive workplaces “must stamp out bad behaviours and attitudes that are preventing women from progressing at work and potentially putting their wellbeing at risk,” Miller said.

Her concerns were shared by Ornella Nsio, stakeholder engagement manager at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation, who told People Management: “Gender inequalities are unfortunately being perpetuated by sexist organisational cultures and biased practices that prevent talented women from entering and progressing in the workplace.”

She said: “This presents a problem not just for female workers but also for the business, which will struggle to retain women with the potential to be a great asset to the organisation.”

The new research comes just weeks after the second round of gender pay reporting suggested that 78 per cent of major British companies have a gender pay gap in favour of men.

And earlier this year, a report by The Equality Trust revealed that only six FTSE 100 chief executives are women, and that they receive around half the remuneration of their male peers.