Male managers blocking gender equality efforts, research suggests

Experts say progress on gender balance is too slow and findings might even indicate regression

Credit: Getty Images/Gary Burchell

Male managers are blocking efforts by businesses to improve gender equality, a study has suggested.

A poll of 1,149 UK managers, conducted by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), found a third of male managers believed too much effort was being dedicated to improving gender balance in the workplace.

Just 13 per cent of female managers felt the same, while almost half (47 per cent) of female managers felt that too little effort was devoted to achieving gender balance.


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Similarly, two-thirds of male managers believed their organisation could successfully address future challenges without gender-balanced leadership, while only a third of female managers agreed. 

Ann Francke, chief executive of the CMI, said that not only was progress around improving gender diversity too slow, but cautioned that these findings suggested the prospect of regression was “ever present”.


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“Men have the potential to be great allies in achieving gender balance. But there has been too little effort devoted to communicating the enormous benefits that greater equity offers including for better business and organisational performance as all talent is better developed and deployed,” said Franke.

The research found that having a child is seen as the main reason for workplace disparity. Nearly two in five (37 per cent) female managers with children said they had been overlooked for a promotion, compared to a quarter (27 per cent) of male managers with children.

Darren Hockley, managing director of DeltaNet International, said it was important managers received training to help them challenge stereotypes, and that managers spent time with people from different backgrounds to better understand the importance of gender balance in the workplace.

“Having a balance of gender diversity in the workplace is not just good for company culture, but as it brings creativity to the table, it helps organisational profit too,” he added.

Leading by example could make a difference to workplace inclusivity, added Jay Wetterau, head of diversity and inclusion at Fieldfisher. “Our managing partner is the biggest advocate for not just gender, but all strands of diversity,” he said.