Most workplaces still biased against women

Sep 06 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

The vast majority of women believe that their organisations are biased against them and feel intimidated at work simply because of their gender, according to a new report.

Despite 30 years of gender discrimination laws, and vast improvements in working conditions and career advancement for women, there is a still an awful long way to go, the study by UK employment law firm Peninsula has suggested.

Of the more than 2,000 women polled, more than eight out of 10 said they would not tell their boss if they were being harassed because they believed it would make no difference - and may actually make things worse.

And, worryingly, almost three-quarters (72 per cent) said they had experienced gender-based bullying at work.

The study compared a similar poll conducted in 2002 and found that, when it came to career progression and male bias in the workplace, most women thought things had got worse, not better.

In 2002, almost eight out of 10 (78 per cent) of women polled thought being female was harming their chances of career progression.

But in this year's poll, this figure had actually risen to 82 per cent, said Peninsula.

When asked whether they believed there was male bias in the workplace, 82 per cent said yes in 2002, but 85 per cent agreed this time around.

Intimidation and bullying on the basis of gender had risen from 67 per cent in 2002 to 72 per cent now.

Peter Done, managing director of Peninsula, said: "Promotion and career progression opportunities for female employees, although better than they once were, are still not on a par with men, as it appears gender stereotypes still exist in many workplaces.

"Employers must make sure they take positive assertive actions to create a company culture which makes it clear discrimination won't be tolerated, and all managers are aware of the policies and legislation in place to prevent discriminatory decisions from being made regarding the workforce," he added.

This included making sure policies regarding equal opportunities were outlined in contracts of employment and communicated to staff throughout their time with the company, he stressed.

"Tribunals are increasingly looking at written policies and procedures enforced by employers, and will almost certainly find an employer to be failing in their duty of care if they do not have a written and well publicised equal opportunities policy," he said.

"Tribunals are won in the workplace not the courtroom; as such employers need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they did everything in their power to prevent any harassment from occurring," added Done.

"It is unacceptable that such a high number of female workers have felt intimidated and discriminated against purely on the basis of their gender," he continued.

"An environment of honesty should be created where female employees are encouraged to inform their superiors of any issues that arise.

"Bosses should talk to the individual or individuals concerned to gain an insight into the extent of the problem and how best to solve it. But if it becomes a persistent problem then appropriate action should be taken," Done concluded.