• 62% say women less likely to get their ideas endorsed in working environment
  • While only 19% of senior leadership teams are predominantly female, 53% are still predominantly male
  • Workers split 50:50 split on whether UK plc is still “institutionally sexist”
  • 40% of workers assume sexism will improve if we just leave it

Women are less likely to have their ideas endorsed at work than men, according to research from recruiter Randstad UK.  

In a poll of 787 people working across the UK, 62 per cent said women are less likely to get their ideas endorsed in a working environment than men - while only 31 per cent said “as likely”.  One in fourteen, 7 per cent, said women were “more likely” to have their ideas taken up.

Victoria Short, CEO of Randstad UK said: “Nowadays, workplace misogynists are unlikely to boast about their views with colleagues or acquaintances because of the social stigma attached to holding such antiquated beliefs.  As a result, their sexism has become covert.  While such prejudice is unlikely to reveal itself in wolf whistling any more - or insisting that female secretarial staff wear high heels - it is still to be found in the sympathetic chat explaining to a female employee that her idea isn’t the one being taken forward.”

The research was unveiled at a webinar Randstad hosted last week as part of Women’s History Month with guest speaker Brigadier Nicky Moffat CBE - at one time the highest ranked woman in the British Army.  Moffat, who is now a leadership consultant and executive coach, joined the military in 1985, and was in the Army for 27 years, including a spell as military private secretary to the Secretary of State for Defence.

Of those polled, only 28 per cent said that the senior leadership team in the organisation within which they worked was an even mix of men and women - while just under a fifth (19 per cent) said it was predominantly female.  More than half, 53 per cent, said their organisation was predominantly male.  

Randstad also asked participants if they thought that UK plc was “structurally sexist”.  An equal number of people thought that it was “structurally sexist”, as denied it.  

Victoria Short said: “Sexism in the workplace is about so much more than prejudice. It’s about the established norms in the workplace that reinforce and perpetuate gender inequity. When it comes down to the make-up of senior leadership teams, it can include the sympathetic chat with HR when you haven’t got the big promotion. But it doesn’t go entirely unnoticed. Women know they’re not always on a level playing field with men in many organisations.”

Randstad asked participants if they thought businesses need to address their cultural prejudices around presenteeism.  Nine in every ten (90 per cent) said that they did.  And participants were also asked if they thought sexism in the workplace would “disappear given time”.  Two in every five (40 per cent) said they thought that sexism in the workplace would disappear over time - while only 25 per cent said they thought it would not.  Just over a third, 35 per cent, said they weren’t sure.

Victoria Short said: “It’s frightening that so many people think sexism in the workplace is just going to go away.  We can’t ignore it.  We need to take systemic actions to fix systemic problems.  With the huge changes in the world of work driven by technology, the past can feel very distant.  It’s easy to view institutional sexism as something terrible that happened long ago - or that the past has no bearing on the present.  But women only got the vote a hundred years ago and we still have a lot of ground to make up in the workplace. If we are to arrive at genuine equality,  it will require good men taking action.”  

Brig Moffat said: “Creating the conditions - including a culture - in which women have equal access to opportunity is everyone’s business, including the CEO’s.  Equality statements and diversity networks have their place.  But leaders who set the example, are clear about expectations, and who oversee the systematic dismantling of barriers to diversity, can drive progress in this space.  If you are working in an environment that is neither supportive nor inclusive, look elsewhere.  Find one of the many progressive organisations that recognises and values your capability, both regardless of - and because of - your difference.”

A recent survey of HR directors undertaken by outplacement firm Randstad Risesmart found that only one in fifty (2 per cent) thought that it was going to be easier to find and retain talent in 2021.  Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) reported that the demand for top talent would increase given organisations will need the best people on board to help them rebuild following the pandemic.  A third (33 per cent) said they thought the demand for top talent would remain unchanged.

Separate research undertaken by Randstad found that 75 per cent of women felt the pandemic had disproportionately affected their employment - while only 25 per cent said it had not.  

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RANDSTAD is one of the world’s largest recruitment and HR service providers and is active in 38 countries.  It trains approximately 350,000 people a year, and helps 2,000,000 candidates find a job with one of 280,000 clients.  Randstad has 38,000 employees and generates revenues of €24bn.  It was founded in 1960 and is headquartered in Diemen, the Netherlands. 

RANDSTAD UK helps organisations recruit the best talent and also offers flexible labour resource management and managed service provision (MSP) - enabling companies to streamline processes and reduce costs.  It employs 1,500 people, working in 150 locations across the country.  Randstad UK is particularly active in the public sector: Randstad Education provides teachers and support staff for schools and colleges, working with 5,000 schools, providing work for over 15,000 teachers and teaching assistants every week; Randstad Care provides nurses, care workers and qualified social workers for the public and private sector, delivering over 2,000,000 hours of care each year.  For more information, see www.randstad.co.uk.