Female HR directors 'more likely to view workplaces as sexist'

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Almost half of female HR staff think their workplace is sexist, compared with only a quarter of men in the same positions, according to research from the Young Women’s Trust.

The charity, which supports young women on low or no pay, asked 800 HR decision-makers about women’s experiences at work. 

Of the 30 per cent of employers who admitted that sexism in their workplace still exists, 40 per cent were women and 24 per cent were men.

The survey also found that one in eight large UK organisations admit knowing sexual harassment has gone unreported in their workplace.

A significant majority (63 per cent) of HR directors and decision-makers thought sexism still existed in most workplaces, increasing to 76 per cent among female employers. 

“Too many young women are facing sexism and sexual harassment while trying to carry out their jobs. It is shocking how many employers are aware of this in their own workplace – yet the problem continues,” said Dr Carole Easton, the chief executive of Young Women’s Trust.

The survey found a considerable gap between male and female perception of workplace sexism (Shutterstock)

The research showed a disturbing disparity between male and female perception of sexual harassment in the workplace, said Joe Levenson, the director of campaigns at Young Women’s Trust.

“While of course there are many excellent male managers, some men may not be aware of the experiences of sexism suffered by women in the workplace – sometimes it may be brushed under the carpet or dismissed as banter,” he said. “So much sexism at work goes unreported, women fear that they will not be taken seriously or it will be bad for their career.”

The study comes as the Supreme Court rules that employment tribunal fees are unlawful after a challenge from public sector union Unison. Now employees will once more be able to take on employers over workplace sexual harassment without worrying about having to pay huge sums.

While tribunal fees were in place, the number of women reporting sexual harassment at work fell dramatically, despite calls to helplines increasing, according the Young Women’s Trust. 

Dr Easton said: “It’s important that women have access to justice when they face discrimination and harassment at work, no matter how much money they have.”

She added: “Employers should look too at what they can do to prevent problems occurring in the first place. Supporting more women into a male-dominated workplace, for example, can help change the culture. Everyone should be able to feel safe at work.” 

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