International Women’s Day: odds still stacked against women in the workforce

Odds stacked against women in workforceThe 110th International Woman’s Day took place this weekend, and, aside from highlighting the continuing struggles of women across the world, comes research that reveals how in this country, the odds are still stacked against women at work. More than four in 10 (42%) women aged between 18-34 said they have personally faced a gender barrier, followed by 34 per cent of those aged between 35-54 and 26 per cent of women aged 55 and over. Of those women who have experienced inequality at work, over a third (35%) say they believe male colleagues at the same level earn more than they do.  Thirty one per cent indicate they are assigned work that is below their level and are therefore unable to demonstrate their abilities, while almost one in five (19%) say that junior colleagues don’t take instructions from them, but will do from male colleagues of equal seniority.

What is probably most depressing about this research by recruiter Robert Half UK is that a separate study also shows that nearly half (47%) of HR directors believe women are in fact advancing their careers on par with men in the workplace, displaying a clear mismatch in perceptions between employees and HR directors.

However, across the wider business community, two thirds (66%) of both male and female employees believe women experience barriers in their careers and nearly three quarters (73%) of UK employees surveyed believe that the societal perception of a woman’s role and / or career path is a major factor in creating a glass ceiling.

Other top causes of inequality of work for women reported by both male and female employees are due to: managerial style (29%); lack of workplace visibility – i.e too modest about successes/achievements – (24%); and a lack of confidence within the business (22%).

In a bid to alleviate this gap in the workplace, nearly half of employees (49%) think companies should provide flexible working opportunities, identified by 39 per cent of males and 48 per cent of females. A further 43 per cent want UK organisations to review pay grades, with 23 per cent looking for workshops such as within management training and confidence building (23%).

Estelle James, Director, Robert Half UK said: “While business leaders are taking steps to level the playing field between men and women in the workplace, our research shows that these inroads are not being felt by the employees themselves. Businesses need to eradicate the ‘old boys club’ mentality and allocate adequate resources to ensure that the glass ceiling becomes the glass elevator.

“Offering the right career path and development opportunities coupled with more flexible working options will result in a larger pool of women ready to take their rightful seat at the boardroom table.

“We’ve had 110 years celebrating International Women’s Day, yet there is more work to be done. Respect, equality and fairness need to be embraced by all, as in the end, it’s about the skills one brings to the workplace, not their gender.”