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44% of women say their gender has hindered their career or will in the future

This is the centre of a paradox that UK women face in the workplace – while many cite their organisation as being supportive of women, large numbers have also experienced prejudice and have seen their gender act as a barrier to their career progression, according to a new report from career coaching providers Talking Talent.

The research conducted among over a thousand professional women and working mothers found more than seven in ten women rate their employer positively for retaining and progressing female talent. This support and positivity extends to working mothers as 71% say their employer is supportive of them.

On the other hand, 36% of women have experienced prejudice because of their gender and 37% of working mothers said the same about motherhood. Twelve per cent of women have been passed over for promotion because of their gender.

This contradiction suggests many professional women do not feel comfortable voicing concerns over a lack of support or behaviour that can negatively impact their careers. Employers therefore need to ensure more is done to create the right environment within the workplace to combat this

Best and Worst Sectors for Working Women

Some sectors are much better for women than others however. Accountancy is the best sector for working women, with the highest scores for more positive indicators than any other profession. Female accountants are most likely to say their employer is supportive of women (94%) and also most positive about their employer’s ability to retain female talent, with a third describing their employer as excellent compared to an average of one in five.

At the other end of the scale, women in advertising, marketing and media rate their industry as worst for progressing female talent and a majority have faced prejudice and discrimination (51%).

Women in engineering and manufacturing are least likely to say they feel supported and least positive about their employer’s ability to retain female talent (11%).  They are most likely to say their gender has hindered their career progress, with the majority citing a male dominated environment as a key reason.

Best and Worst Sectors for Working Mothers

Education and law are the best sectors for working mothers. Education is ranked most highly for acceptance of the need for work life balance, assessment based on performance rather than hours worked, and attitudes to working mothers. Mothers in this sector also see the lowest level of prejudice and discrimination (25% compared to 34% overall).

Women in law rate their profession most highly for supporting working mothers with 29% describing it as excellent compared with an average of 14%. They also rated their profession most highly on offering career progression and opportunities for working mothers.

Women in advertising, marketing and media rate their industry poorly on attitudes to working mothers, attitudes to flexible working, and acceptance of the need for work/life balance. Women in this sector were also most likely to say being a working mother had hindered their career progress

Solutions

The most popular measure to improve progression for women and working mothers is flexible working, viewed as vital to progression by 38% of women.  A third cite more mothers and women in senior positions as vital to encouraging progression as they act as role models. This is particularly true of those at the start of their careers, 37% of whom say it would improve their industry. However, women want these figureheads to have gained their position entirely on merit. There is therefore very little support for quotas among women (7%).

Chris Parke, CEO of Talking Talent said,

“While some sectors are doing better than others, it is clear that UK employers need to do more to ensure strategies to support women are being properly accepted and implemented at the operational level. At the same time, employers need to promote a culture where professional women are comfortable voicing concerns about barriers to their careers. The level of prejudice and discrimination towards women and working mothers, and the fact such a large proportion have been passed over for promotion due to their gender is shocking. 

“If employers fail to stamp this out and to introduce measures to support women particularly through maternity, employers will miss out on a huge section of their top talent – something they can ill-afford to do in today’s competitive economy.”

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