Four Out of Five Managers Witnessed Gender Discrimination

Tuesday 24 January 2017
  • Research from the Chartered Management Institute reveals 81% of managers have witnessed some form of gender discrimination or bias in their workplace in the past 12 months
  • Three-quarters (75%) believe senior male leaders have a responsibility to support the career development of women
  • Senior business figures from some the UK’s largest companies – including Sky, E.ON and Nutmeg – are lending support to CMI’s ‘Men as Role Models’ initiative, which is calling on senior male managers to become agents of change

New research reveals that four in five managers (81%) have witnessed some form of gender discrimination or bias at work in the past 12 months.

The survey of 851 UK managers, carried out by the Chartered Management Institute for its CMI Women campaign, found that inappropriate remarks, gender bias in recruitment and promotion decisions, and gender inequality in pay and rewards are still proving major barriers to gender equality in many organisations. This is despite the fact that bridging the gender gap in the UK by 2025 would add as much as £150bn to the economy1. According to CMI Women, the UK economy will need two million new managers by 2024 – and 1.5 million will need to be women to achieve gender balance.

Asked what behaviours they had personally witnessed in the past 12 months, half (50%) of managers pointed to gender bias in recruitment/promotion decisions, while 42% said they had seen inequality in pay and rewards. Over two-thirds of managers (69%) said they saw women struggling to make their views heard in meetings, and four in five (81%) said they had witnessed inappropriate remarks (such as comments with sexualised overtones masquerading as ‘banter’).

Gender discriminatory behaviour witnessed in the past 12 months Male Managers Female Managers
Witnessed inappropriate remarks 80% 85%
Witnessed women struggling to make their views heard in meetings 62% 83%
Witnessed gender bias in recruitment / promotion decisions 42% 62%
Witnessed gender bias in pay and rewards 31% 61%







While the research finds that men are less likely than women to witness gender discriminatory behaviour, it also reveals that progress is being made and there is a wider will for change, with the majority acting to promote gender balance:


Actions taken to promote gender balance Male Managers Female Managers
Have put forward/encourage a woman for promotion 84% 85%
Have mentored a woman 69% 70%
Have supported a man in a flexible working request to accommodate childcare needs 60% 56%
Have sponsored a woman 23% 12%


Minister for Women, Equalities and Early Years, Caroline Dinenage said:

“Gender discrimination is completely unacceptable - women should never be held back just because of their gender. Shining a light on this issue is absolutely key to achieving equality in the workplace, which is why we are introducing requirements on all large employers to publish their gender pay and bonus data from April.

"But equality is everyone’s business – and it benefits both men and women alike. Men have an important role to play in championing gender equality and this initiative will encourage even more men to actively drive this issue so that all employees can reach their full potential.‎"

The survey shows male managers strongly support gender parity, with 84% in favour of a gender balanced workplace. The survey also reveals that three-quarters (75%) believe men in senior leadership roles have a particular responsibility to support the career development of talented women.

Ann Francke, CEO at CMI, said:

“It’s amazing that four in five managers have witnessed some form of gender biased-behaviour at work in the past year. Achieving a better gender balance is essential to boosting the UK’s productivity, which lags far behind our G7 competitors. If we’re to meet this ambitious target, then managers at all levels must call out behaviour that discriminates against women and encourage equality within their workplace.

“Of course, there are many things that managers, and particularly men in senior roles, can do. There are the big things like championing better flexible working arrangements and sponsoring and mentoring women. But there are the everyday things, like giving everyone an equal chance to be heard in meetings, and to cut out the ‘locker room’ banter that is holding us all back.”    

CMI Women has created ‘Blueprint for Balance’, an innovative open source tool that helps organisations achieve 50/50 management. According to the managers surveyed, the top five Blueprint for Balance interventions they think would lead to a gender balanced workforce are:

  • Flexible working – having a better work/life balance
  • Balanced recruitment – seeing different sorts of role models for leadership
  • Promoting leadership equality - recognising that work can have an emotional impact on employees
  • Mentoring and sponsorship – more opportunities for women
  • Skills and career development - everyone having appropriate opportunities to contribute and be heard in meetings

Heather Melville, Chair of CMI Women and Director for Strategic Partnerships at RBS, commented:

“We need men at every level as management to champion and support women rise up through the ranks and get their fair shot at reaching the top. Our Blueprint for Balance sets out the many ways that men can promote gender equality, strengthen their organisations and help us reach our target of 1.5m more women in management by 2024.”

Today’s research has been released to coincide with the second phase of CMI Women, ‘Men as Role Models’. Senior executives from leading UK businesses are lending their support to the initiative, encouraging men in management to be role models in the workplace and becoming everyday champions of women at work. They include:

•           Chris Stylianou, Chief Operating Office (UK and Ireland) of Sky

•           Michael Lewis, CEO of E.ON Climate & Renewables

•           Martin Steadman, CEO of Nutmeg

‘Blueprint for Balance’ is a free online resource that allows employers to share information and learn from others the practices and policies that have helped improve gender balance in their organisations:

Join the conversation: @cmi_managers #cmiwomen #MRM


View the infographic below for more infomation.