The ‘barrier bosses’ standing in the way of gender equality

13 January 2016 -


Research from the Fawcett Society reveals recruitment managers are twice as likely to be against equality for women in the workplace than the general population

Matt Scott

A small but powerful group of "barrier bosses" are halting progress towards gender equality, according to new research from the Fawcett Society.

The survey of more than 1,400 recruitment managers found that they were more than twice as likely to be against equality of opportunity than the general population, and one in seven believed they would lose out if men and women were more equal.

25% of the men and women questioned said they believed a more equal society would not be better for the UK economy, compared with just 13% in a separate survey of 8,000 adults.

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: "A significant minority of managers - the 'barrier bosses' - are holding us back. They are the ones with the power over recruitment and their decisions are likely to be informed by their attitudes to equality.

"Whether it is conscious or unconscious bias, this is discrimination in action. These are the people responsible for implementing equal opportunities policies yet 16% say they are opposed to the idea.”

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The survey also found that men were more likely to support equality for women in the workplace than women themselves.

Nicky Morgan, minister for women and equalities, said: "Achieving gender equality isn't just good for women, it's essential for our whole country. That's why we all - both men and women - have a part to play. As we know from the work of business leaders like Lord Davies and from men who have inspired each of us in our own lives, men can be our greatest allies.

"We have come a long way and there are now more girls taking STEM subjects at school, a record number of women in work, more women on boards and the gender pay gap is at its lowest level ever.

"But there is clearly still a long way to go and that's why this government is determined to go further and faster than ever before to close the gender pay gap in a generation, and to make sure all women can fulfill their potential."

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The results of this latest study into gender inequality follows on from CMI research published in August 2015 that found women are working unpaid for almost two hours each day as a result of unequal pay.

The 2015 National Management Salary Survey of 72,000 UK managers revealed that on average women working in equivalent full-time roles earn £8,524 less than men – a difference of 22%.

Mark Crail of XpertHR said the situation was unacceptable.

“An entire generation has now worked its way through from school leaver to retirement since the first equal pay legislation came into effect in 1970, yet the gender pay gap persists, and many employers still prefer not to know just how bad it is in their organisation rather than getting to grips with the data and doing something about it,” he said.

“HR and reward specialists in larger companies have a special responsibility to get this firmly onto the senior management agenda and to develop the plans needed to close the gap.”

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The survey also found that the gender pay gap increases with age and seniority, with the pay gap increasing to 38% for women and men in their 60s and reaching £14,943 for senior or director-level staff.

The research also found that, not only are older women earning less, but there are also fewer of them in executive positions.

Women comprise 67% of the workforce in entry-level roles, and continue to outnumber men in junior management roles, but female representation drops to 43% for senior management.

Even more worryingly, women hold just 29% of director-level posts.

MI chief executive Ann Francke said more needed to be done to get women into the ‘executive pipeline’.

“Working for free two hours a day is unacceptable. While some progress is being made, it’s clear from our research that Lord Davies is right to target the executive pipeline.

“Having more women in senior executive roles will pave the way for others and ensure they’re paid the same as their male colleagues at every stage of their careers.”

Visit for further information on the gender pay gap

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