Survey highlights sexist attitudes in the workplace

A Young Women’s Trust survey shows little improvement on sexist attitudes compared to last year while a Unison survey highlights sexual harassment against healthcare staff.

Sexual Harassment


Two in five women bosses say there is sexism in their workplace, compared with one in five men, according to new research by the charity Young Women’s Trust.

A YouGov poll of  802 senior HR professionals for the charity, which supports young women on low or no pay, shows that 37 per cent of women and 22 per cent of men with management responsibility say that sexist behaviour still exists in their organisation – a total of 29 per cent of all employers. One in 10 men (nine per cent) say that men are better suited to management jobs than women (compared to three per cent of women).

The survey also finds that these sexist attitudes appear to be translating into decisions that hold women back. Two in five employers (18 per cent) say it is “harder for women to progress in my organisation than men”, rising to 27 per cent among women (11 per cent among men).

Public sector employers were most likely to agree that “sexist behaviour in my organisation still exists” at 41 per cent, followed by private sector employers at 26 per cent and third sector employers at 21 per cent. When broken down by sector, public administration was the highest on 46 per cent. Some 38 per cent of employers in large organisations (250 employees or more) agreed with the statement, compared to 13 per cent in small organisations.

Ten per cent of employers said that men have better IT skills than women (14 per cent of men and five per cent of women).

The Trust says the figures show very little change on last year’s results, despite moves to improve women’s equality such as gender pay gap reporting.

Young Women’s Trust communications and campaigns director Joe Levenson said:  “From patronising remarks to sexual harassment and gender discrimination, sexist cultures only serve to hold women back. This perpetuates gender pay gaps and disadvantages employers by limiting their organisations’ talent pools.

“Unsurprisingly, women managers are more aware of it than men – no doubt because they too experience discrimination. Employers must root out sexism in their organisations and give women an equal chance to succeed. It can be particularly tough in male-dominated workplaces, where employers should help to bring more women in and change the culture through training days, mentoring and even targets.”

Sexual harassment in healthcare

Meanwhile, a report from Unison catalogues the extent of sexual harassment suffered by NHS staff. Of over 8,000 members of staff surveyed, eight per cent said they had been sexually harassed at work in the last year.

The report says 64% had been subjected to unwanted sexist remarks and jokes. Nearly one in eight report being leered at or subjected to offensive ‘banter’ and suggestive gestures.

Nearly a quarter (22%) who reported harassment said they had been sexually assaulted. Some had also been the victim of criminal offences such as rape, up-skirting, indecent exposure or inappropriate touching.

The vast majority of those targeted were women (81%) and incidents mainly involved perpetrators who were older (61%) than their target, and often employed in more powerful roles (37%).

More than half (55%) of those who reported sexual harassment ended up isolating themselves or avoiding colleagues/situations at work and more than a third (35%) said the harassment affected their mental health or confidence (34%). Others (40%) have ended up wanting to leave their job.

However, more than a quarter (28%) kept quiet about the harassment and only one in five (20%) reported it to human resources or their managers. Reasons for not reporting included the belief that nothing would be done (49%), they would be dismissed as oversensitive (37%) or the perpetrator would retaliate (24%).

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