Shocking but true – research published today reveals four in five managers have witnessed some form of gender discrimination or bias in the past year. (Perhaps this should start ‘Not shocking but true …’)
I know it happens. I’ve witnessed it. More than once.
A few years ago, I was STUNNED by my managing partner’s comment.
I worked for a large professional services firm. I was Head of IT in the London office. I had a small team of 5 (IT trainer, infrastructure analyst, junior infrastructure analyst, and two service desk staff). It was bonus review time. The firm’s policy was that bonuses are based on a person’s appraisal rating i.e. if your overall rating was “Good”, you received a bigger percentage bonus than somebody whose overall rating was “Meets expectations”. That seems fair, doesn’t it.
Except it was more like George Orwell’s Animal Farm where “all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others“.
Appraisals and ratings were based on the manager’s assessment with feedback from peers and colleagues. So far, so good.
As one of the Heads of department, I sat down with the Managing Partner and the Practice Director to finalise bonus payments for my team.
The infrastructure analyst (male) had an overall “Meets expectations” rating. The junior infrastructure analyst (female) received “Good”. Thus Adam was due to receive a smaller percentage bonus.
Until the Managing Partner piped up “We should give Adam a bigger bonus than that. He’s worked hard this year.” My response was “Yes I agree, he’s worked hard this year. As has Jenny. However if we are to be fair to all, we need to abide by the policy we have agreed.”
His next response floored me. “Yes but he’s a man. He’s got a family to provide for.” WHAAAATT? In my head I’m thinking “So you want to give him a bigger bonus JUST because he’s a man? What about Jenny? She’s got a family too?” I don’t remember the words that came out of my mouth, suffice to say, it was finally accepted that we should abide by the agreed policy.
80% of managers witness gender discrimination and bias
This is just one example of gender discrimination or bias in the workplace, as revealed by the Chartered Management Institute.
- 81% of managers have witnessed some form of gender discrimination or bias in their workplace in the past 12 months
- 75% believe senior male leaders have a responsibility to support the career development of women
The CMI has launched ‘Men as Role Models’ initiative, calling on senior male managers to become agents of change, with support from some of the UK’s largest companies including Sky, E.ON and Nutmeg.
The survey carried out by the CMI 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. And yet … bridging the gender gap in the UK by 2025 would add as much as £150bn to the economy. 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.
Half 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 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
|Witnessed inappropriate remarks
|Witnessed women struggling to make their views heard in meetings
|Witnessed gender bias in recruitment / promotion decisions
|Witnessed gender bias in pay and rewards
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
|Have put forward/encourage a woman for promotion
|Have mentored a woman
|Have supported a man in a flexible working request to accommodate childcare needs
|Have sponsored a woman
It is the duty of all of us, not just the female managers, to call it when they see it.
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 (25 January 2017) 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
What about you?
Do share what you have witnessed (or experienced) as gender discrimination or bias. Join the conversation on Twitter @cmi_managers #cmiwomen #MRM