Intimidation and bullying stopping women managers in their tracks

Oct 05 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

A macho environment of bullying and harassment is stopping women progress within the British workplace, according to a study by equal opportunities group Opportunity Now.

The research among line managers found that 17 per cent of female managers and seven per cent of male managers felt bullying and harassment were barriers to women's progression.

A total of 16 per cent of female managers had personally experienced bullying and harassment in the past year, compared with 8 per cent of men.

And nearly a quarter Ė 21 per cent Ė of women and 14 per cent of men had observed bullying and harassment in their team in the past 12 months.

While employers said they were committed to equality, diversity and work-life balance, the reality was that there was still a long way to go, said Opportunity Now, which is part of the Business in the Community network.

Managers recognised the business benefits of having more women at all levels of an organisation, yet more than half believed their organisation was failing to make a proper business case for diversity.

Just a quarter of managers reported that diversity goals formed part of their personal performance objectives and only 10 per cent linked these goals to remuneration.

Carolyn McCall, chief executive of Guardian Newspapers and chair of Opportunity Now, said: "Line managers play a vital role in encouraging diversity in the workplace. Our research shows they need much greater support from their employer and genuine organisational commitment if real equality is to be delivered.

"Senior leaders can have a decisive impact on the behaviour of their managers, they need to lead by example and take action to ensure equality and diversity happens in practice," she added.

The survey of more than 800 line managers from the private and public sectors showed 92 per cent believed having a diverse workforce was important to organisational reputation.

On top of this 85 per cent believed women possessed valuable leadership skills, and 82 per cent believed women brought a unique perspective to decision making and problem solving.

Men and women were also at odds about where the problems lay. A total of 61 per cent of female managers said there was a lack of senior or visibly successful female role models, compared with only 34 per cent of male managers.

Fifty seven per cent of female managers believed the fact women were seen as less committed to work because of family commitments was a real barrier, compared with only 19 per cent of men.

Line managers recognised the importance of encouraging their staff to achieve a good work-life balance, yet they seemed to be struggling to achieve this for themselves, with 45 per cent unable to balance their own work and personal commitments.

Seventy five per cent of managers worked more than 45 hours a week and nearly one in five worked more than 60 hours a week.

Roger Putnam, chairman of Ford of Britain and chair of the taskforce of employers who helped steer the research, said: "Leadership and management styles and actions play a vital part in creating a positive working environment in which there is zero tolerance for unfair discrimination, harassment and bullying and where dignity, respect and inclusion are the norm.

"Line managers are at the front line of this process and are the ones that can make significant and meaningful changes to workplace culture," he added.