A third of working women still feel disadvantaged in the workplace, with that perception increasing as earnings rise, according to research by Badenoch & Clark.
The Women in Leadership report found 84% of the female professionals surveyed said they had never been overlooked for promotion as a result of their gender; over two thirds (67%) of respondents also believe the professional playing field to be a level one between men and women where the availability of opportunities is concerned. However, this changes around the £60k mark: women earning £60k and above reported what they felt to be inequality in the opportunities offered to men and women at their salary level, when compared to those earning around £30k.
In those instances where women do feel at a disadvantage concerning opportunities for progression, unconscious bias and perceptions concerning flexibility are seen to be at the root of the problem. Over half (57%) of the women surveyed believe there is an unconscious bias in the workplace, with senior level positions still dominated by men — potentially preventing female progression to the boardroom. Whilst only 14% expressed an aversion to progressing to a more powerful position (with the same percentage admitting to a lack of confidence), the report says that negative perceptions that surround women appear to cascade from the top.
Many of the female professionals spoke of a move towards conscious bias with some male professionals believing their female counterparts only achieved a position of seniority because of tokenism. Only 7% of respondents felt gender quotas were an effective form of female advancement.
Almost half of women in management said they felt the basic infrastructure of what was available to them was not beneficial. Whilst leadership and development programmes were popular with nearly a quarter and mentoring schemes with 18%, 47% said that the initiatives most commonly employed by UK businesses were not at all useful. Just over a quarter said a lack of role models was a barrier to progression.
The survey also showed 85% of women worry a career break could impact their progression – with 38% believing this damage to be long-term. The report calls for more support for women during maternity leave and says flexible working needs to be promoted to all workers and not just women.
It also recommends that organisations introduce programmes and initiatives that compliment clear career paths, but says that businesses must understand their employees as individuals before they can define effective strategies.
Other recommendations include introducing executive coaching for those with promise, making CVs and job applications anonymous, improving training for hiring managers to avoid bias and considering reducing travel expectations for board members.