A significant minority of working women still feel that their gender acts as a barrier to career progression. According to a recent survey conducted by career-coaching providers Talking Talent, 44% of more than 1,000 respondents feel that their gender has hindered, or will hinder, their career prospects.
Advertising and engineering were rated as the worst industries. More than half (51%) have experienced prejudice in the media, marketing and advertising fields thanks to negative attitudes about working mothers, flexible working and work-life balance. Meanwhile, just 11% of women working in engineering and manufacturing said they felt supported and confident with their employer’s ability to retain female talent in a male-dominated environment.
Some 36% of women overall said that they had experienced full-blown gender discrimination, while almost 40% of working mothers said that having children has halted their careers. A 12% segment said that they had missed out on promotions because of their gender. The figures suggest that employers need to do more to develop the correct working environment to provide opportunities for female progression.
Not all sectors, though, were producing negative feelings. The survey found that accountancy is the best sector for women, with a huge 94% of number-crunching respondents saying that their company is supportive of their long-term aims. One third described their employer as excellent, compared to an overall average of one in five.
Law and education also fared well, deemed best for offering support, career progression and understanding of work-life balance to working mothers. Education achieved a particularly high ranking for work-life balance, assessment-based performance and reduced discrimination (with just 25% of respondents saying they had been discriminated against). In the legal profession, 29% described their employers as excellent supporting working mothers, compared to an overall average of 14%. Law was also rated highest for an abundance of career-boosting opportunities and promotions available to working mothers.
Talking Talent CEO Chris Parke explained: “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.
He added: “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.”
Potential management solutions
According to the survey, flexible working is likely to play a vital role in providing more support to women, with 38% viewing the process as key to enabling their career progression.
Furthermore, role models in the workplace are also essential for backing the progression of female professionals. More than a third (37%) of entry-level female workers said that greater female presence at the head of companies would boost the industry – but interestingly, just 7% of respondents would like to see the introduction of quotas. The majority hope that high-level positions will be offered to women on merit alone.
They key findings are
- 80% of women feel their employer is supportive of them. Conversely 44% say their gender has hindered their career (or will in the future) while 36% of women have experienced workplace prejudice.
- 12% of women have been passed over for promotion because of their gender.
- Accountancy is the best sector for working women, receiving the highest scores in more positive indicators than any other sector.
- Law, Education and Accountancy are the best sectors for working mothers.
- Advertising & Media and Engineering & Construction are the worst sectors for both women and working mothers.
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