Widespread workplace discrimination blocking progress on gender diversity [New research]

25 January 2018 -

Blueprint for BalanceThis week the scandal of the Presidents Club broke, and public attention is on sexual harassment as never before. Now new research from CMI demonstrates how rife discrimination is across the workplace

Matt Scott

More than four in five (85%) of women and 80% of men report that they have witnessed gender-discriminatory acts at work, according to the latest research from CMI.

The Blueprint for Balance: time to fix the broken windows report, which surveyed 856 managers, found that the majority of organisations are still struggling to make a meaningful difference to achieving a gender-balanced workplace, with just 25% of respondents saying that their peers and senior leaders ‘actively and visibly champion gender initiatives’. The report is released just a day after the Presidents Club was forced to close after widespread harassment of female hostesses was revealed by the Financial Times.

Worryingly, according to CMI’s new report, only 19% of junior and middle managers believe their senior leaders are committed to the target of gender balance in their organisations – this despite a recent study by management consultants McKinsey showing that the most gender-diverse businesses are 21% more likely to financially outperform their peers.

The new CMI research also found that, despite the introduction of new pay transparency reporting regulations in April 2017, only 8% of managers know the size of their organisation’s gender pay gap.

Furthermore, more than two in five (41%) claim that their organisation does not have a gender pay gap, even though CMI research has found the average difference in pay between male and female managers to be 27%.

CMI chief executive Ann Francke said that not only is correcting this gender imbalance the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense, and she urged managers to fix the ‘broken windows’ that are holding back gender equality at work.

“Achieving gender diversity is a priority business performance issue – gender-balanced companies financially far outperform their peers,” she said. “While we’re starting to see change, progress is stuttering. Employers have great intentions, but our report shows there’s still a yawning gap between the rhetoric and the reality of work for too many women.

“Leaders and their managers need to fix the ‘broken windows’ – the range of everyday biased attitudes, actions and practices that make possible the bigger systemic problems that women face.”

Francke added: “Only then will organisations build inclusive cultures where women, other minorities, and men, can thrive.”

Commenting on the Presidents Club story, Francke told the BBC: "If you're a captain of industry in 2018, do you really want your shareholders, your customers, your employees to see you associated with things like this?”

The CMI Blueprint for Balance report also reveals that less than a third of managers give their employers top marks for the effectiveness of flexible working, pay and rewards, and recruitment practices to promote gender diversity.

The majority (59%) also believe that their employer is failing to provide mentoring and sponsorship opportunities; and half (48%) say that their organisation’s management culture does not support gender balance.

The report features a number of case studies of employers that are making strides forward to transform their workplace to make them more inclusive. These include financial services giant UBS’s Career Comeback programme, which attracts women who have taken time out from work, helping the business tap into a wealth of talent.

Carolanne Minashi, global head of diversity & inclusion at UBS, said of the programme: “As all organisations struggle to find women to fill senior leadership roles, we think we have access to a new talent pool that with a bit of creative support can make a fabulous contribution to the business.”

Fixing the broken windows

CMI’s Blueprint for Balance report charts employers’ current approaches to achieving gender balance, as well as the many persistent types of bias that continue to separate corporate rhetoric from the realities of today’s workplace for women.

The report highlights the changes employers need to make to these so-called ‘broken windows’ in their organisation – the small acts of discrimination that make possible the bigger blockers to gender diversity.

Examples include female managers interviewed saying that they are viewed internally as ‘admin only’ in their organisation, through to male colleagues taking unearned credit for their ideas. The fixes include practices such as balanced recruitment, flexible working as the norm, and promoting leadership development programmes for women.

CMI’s Broken Windows campaign is encouraging women to share their stories of workplace discrimination and how they are tackling them. Email your story to: brokenwindows@managers.org.uk

To download the Blueprint for Balance report visit: http://www.managers.org.uk/brokenwindows

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