5 March 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Almost three in four female (74 per cent) employees believe their workplace culture makes it tougher for women to advance their careers than men - and two in five (42 per cent) men agree, according to research by the University of Cambridge.
The key findings from its latest year-long gender balanced study, involving 5,814 UK employees (54 per cent men and 47 per cent women), was launched by academics from Murray Edwards College as a part of a long-term research project called Collaborating with Men.
This research also reveals men's views and the gulf between the two, identifying where focus is needed to guarantee equality of opportunity.
The researchers state that the findings "shed new light on subtle behaviours derived from the ways in which people think of the strengths and attributes of men and women".
These include stereotypical thinking about an employee's strengths and potential based on their gender and women and men being held to different standards of behaviour. The study found this "unconscious, but nevertheless damaging, bias is perpetuated by both men and women, mainly to the detriment of women's careers".
The view of senior women is hardened by experience and 81 per cent of senior female employees say their workplace culture presents career advancement challenges for women.
This compares with 72 per cent of junior female employees reporting these challenges. Indeed, as many as 50 per cent of senior female employees report that they face these challenges 'always' or 'often'.
Women of colour report greater barriers to career advancement, with 56 per cent of women from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) or mixed-race
background saying their workplace culture presents career advancement challenges 'always' or 'often'.
This compares with 48 per cent of white women reporting such challenges 'always' or 'often'.
The researchers say "this is not a simple issue" and that "few men or women are intentionally sexist". They add that men and women in organisations they have surveyed "have been surprised by the gender gulf that this research reveals in perceptions about the impact of unintentionally biased thinking".
The Collaborating with Men project was launched in 2014 "to find new ways for men to work alongside women to challenge and change attitudes and behaviours and create workplace cultures where talented individuals have equal access to opportunities".
Delivered through research and workshops with large UK employers, the initiative enables employees across the genders to work together to solve cultural issues in their own workplace. It was launched after a 2014 survey of the all-female college's alumnae reported workplace culture issues to be a greater barrier to career advancement than challenges posed by balancing work and family life.