Over 8.2 million employees in the UK feel they’ve been discriminated against on the grounds of their gender. That’s according to our new survey which polled 2,000 employees in the UK on the topic.
At SME Loans we are continually conducting research into what startups and small businesses can do to become better workplaces. Gender discrimination, in its many forms, remains a huge issue for employees across the country in many businesses, as evidenced in our most recent survey.
A significant 26% of all workers polled felt they had previously been discriminated against on the grounds of their gender at work. What’s more, in an unexpected turn the survey revealed that more men feel as though they’ve been victim to gender discrimination than women.
The British workforce tell us their individual experiences of direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
What Types of Discrimination Are These People Experiencing?
Of those who felt they had been victim to discrimination, different types were prevalent:
- 32.4% of the group who’d experienced gender discrimination said they feel people of the opposite gender got away with more at work
- 28.7% of those who’d experienced gender discrimination had been, in their view, overlooked for a promotion on the grounds of gender
- 26.5% of this group felt their work was not taken seriously because of their gender
- 24% believe they had attended interviews where they didn't get the job on the grounds of gender
- 23.4% believe they’ve been unfairly dismissed on gender grounds
- 17.7% felt they’d been made redundant on the basis of gender
- Discrimination is influincing the number of people wanting to start a business
It Doesn't Just Happen To Women
When we talk about the gender pay gap and wider gender discrimination issues in the workplace, much of the conversation centers around women. But our survey reveals that men are likelier to feel they’ve been discriminated against on the grounds of gender than women.
* 28% of men say they feel they’ve experienced gender discrimination in the workplace compared to;
* 23% of women
The types of discrimination vary from gender to gender too:
Of those who felt they’ve been a victim of such discrimination, women were likelier to feel they were not taken seriously because of their gender, while men were the likelier to feel that those of the opposite sex get away with more at work.
Gender Discrimination By Age
The proportion of workers who’ve experienced gender discrimination in their place of work varies significantly by age as well:
- 28.2% of 18 to 24s believe they’ve experienced gender discrimination at work
- A huge 38.4% of 25 to 34s have experienced gender discrimination at work
- 30.4% of those aged 35 to 44 have experienced discrimination on the grounds of gender
- This falls to just 17% of those aged 45 to 54
- It falls to just 7.5% amongst those aged 55 and over
Both gender discrimination and other forms of bullying or harassment vary across the country too according to our statistics.
In Yorkshire, over 34% of the workforce believes they’ve experienced discrimination on the grounds of gender. At the other end of the scale, on Northern Ireland, this figure falls to 15.6%.
In the South West, 29.5% of workers feel they’ve been the victim of workplace bullying. The figure drops to 15.6% in Northern Ireland.
In the South East, 17.3% of the workforce believes they’ve been sexually harassed in the workplace, dropping to just 6.4% in the South West.
|East of England||18.3%||10.3%||19.4%|
- (1) % of workforce who have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace
- (2) % of workforce who have been sexually harassed in the workplace
- (3) % of workforce who have been bullied in the workplace
Other Types of Harassment
Our survey also uncovered a significant proportion of Brits who’ve experienced other types of harassment or bullying in the workplace.
- 23% told us they have been bullied in the workplace
- 25.4% say they have been made to feel left out at work
- 12.5% have been sexually harassed
- 11% have struggled to make friends at work
With over ¼ of workers feeling that they’ve been victim to bullying and gender discrimination in the workplace, we spoke to members of the British workforce to find out more about their experiences. The first person we spoke to preferred to remain anonymous, she will be referred to as Case Study 1:
Case Study 1 - 35 year old female, Cardiff
After working for a company where harassment was described as ‘endemic to the entire culture of the business’, Case Study 1 described how most of the discrimination experienced was led from the top down. The male CEO once stated to an all-female team “women aren’t cut out to work in sport, they work better in the arts. Sport is a man's world”. One of the male managers told a young female junior member of staff that he would only sign her timesheet "if she’d been a good girl”, whilst other colleagues were guilty of wold whistling, speaking about female staff in a derogatory way, calling them ugly/fat.
Case Study 1 doesn’t recall ever attending a meeting where there wasn’t something inappropriate said, described as ‘real laddish banter culture’. Racist, sexist and homophobic ‘jokes’ were rife, always lead from higher up. Colleagues would imitate what they saw from management and many felt that because the CEO said it, it was acceptable.
Only once in the four years that Case Study 1 worked at the business did someone receive consequences for their racist and sexist behaviour, that person was external to the organisation. No one was internally reprimanded despite several complaints being made to senior members of staff. Case Study 1 knew she needed to get out - everyone who worked for the business seemed miserable and most never spoke up despite feeling bullied in one way or another. Several employees were off on long term sick leave due to stress and the staff turnover rate was the worst she had ever experienced. Case Study 1 managed to find another job, but still has many friends who feel stuck there desperate to get out.
Case Study 2 - Sally Baker, Senior Therapist London
Sally works with a number of clients who work in financial services. These clients often have employee packages that include access to free counseling which they choose not to use. Sally believes this is because someone facing harassment and bullying at work already feels unsafe and unsupported and would often instead source external services than trust an in-house one.
The type of harassment most commonly experienced with clients results from being publicly reprimanded in team meetings or on the office floor where other colleagues can overhear. Both confidence and self-esteem are impacted when errors are pointed out in such a disrespectful way on an ongoing basis. The use of sarcasm and dismissive attitudes that include eye-rolling, walking away mid-conversation and yawning are some of the other ways that managers show their disrespect. Such micro-indicators can feel petty when relaying them to HR, but accumulatively can increase symptoms of depression and anxiety.
A company that expects very early starts and regular late finishing times can often increase employees stress as they struggle to meet work expectations whilst balancing personal commitments.
Managers caught between the directors and staff are often expected to implement and achieve challenging targets at all costs. In Sally’s experience, bullying managers are often women who are bullying other women. People tend to leave a job where they are being bullied, not wanting it on their record that they left in conflict with a manager as they believe it will detrimentally impact their future career prospects. Many of her clients have put up with bullying for two years or longer, but the long-term negative effect on their mental health can be far more enduring.
What Can You Do If You're The Victim Of Discrimination, Harassment or Bullying?
Paul Kelly, Head of Employment at Blacks Solicitors LLP, discusses the effect that harassment, bullying or discrimination can have on the reputation of an organisation and its employees, and what employees can do if they find themselves in that situation:
“If an employee has been subjected to unwanted contact such as sexual harassment, racism or disability prejudice at work then they should raise a formal grievance at the first available opportunity to allow their employer to investigate and take appropriate action.
“An employer should take all allegations of harassment seriously and respond to the grievance as soon as practicable. An employer shouldn’t however, jump to suspend the alleged perpetrator but should first undertake preliminary investigations to establish whether suspension is warranted. In this situation, an employer should also make clear in writing precisely why it feels that suspension is necessary. Thereafter, any investigation or disciplinary action should be conducted with minimal delay.
“Employers should put in place clear guidelines and policies to set out its expectations of conduct in the workplace. Not only should such policies be widely published to the staff, they should be easy to follow so that employees are aware of what may constitute inappropriate behavior and could lead to disciplinary action.
“Employers should also make sure that their policies show how they comply with the Equality Act 2010 and what they are doing to make sure employees feel safe and respected at work. These policies should be actively and regularly reviewed and updated by managers to ensure they are fit for purpose. Employers should also monitor the diversity of their workforce and take steps to address any imbalance.”
About Blacks Solicitors
Blacks Solicitors is a 23 partner firm providing a wide range of legal services to commercial and private clients in Yorkshire and across the UK. With over 200 employees, the firm continues to go from strength to strength. Operating from its Head Office at City Point in Leeds, Blacks Solicitors believe in delivering a first class service to all of their clients, whilst providing expert advice at realistic prices.
- 32,200,000 people working in the UK (source)
- 25.7% of our respondents felt they had been discriminated against at work on the grounds of gender
- 25.7% of 32.2 million is 8,275,400 - equating to an estimated 8.275 million British workers who feel discriminated against in the workplace
Research Methodology - Data Accuracy is Everything.
We set about understanding the business aspirations of the 32.2 million people employed in the UK. In order to do so, we worked with an accredited market research company to poll a large, diverse sample of the British workforce.
We worked with 3GEM Research predominantly because the team at 3GEM is made up of MRS and ESOMAR accredited employees. ESOMAR sets the globally recognised standards for information collection in a market research capacity. Its guidelines ensure (amongst other things):
The data of participants is protected Participants are aware of how their data is used MRS is a similar body that advocates: Fair and unbiased questioning All of the above ensure we have startup statistics data obtained through a research company compliant with data protection regulation and best practice.
2,000 employed participants took part in our survey. The surveyed participants fell into five age groups:
- 18 to 24
- 25 to 34
- 35 to 44
- 45 to 54
They were from 12 first level regions within the UK:
- South East
- South West
- West Midlands
- North West
- North East
- East Midlands
- East England
- Northern Ireland
All participants were employed (as opposed to self employed, retired or unemployed) and of a relatively even split between men and women. Once we were confident we had the right panel and research provider, we set about ensuring we asked clear, concise questions in order to fully understand the motivations, dreams and fears Britain’s workforce.
The startup statistics data obtained from the survey is available on request. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like a copy.
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