Blogs / 30 Dec 2022 3 min

Discrimination against women isn’t going away: latest research indicates gender bias and sexism is rife

We might be more gender aware as a society, but unfortunately, harassment and bullying continue to occur in organisations at alarming rates. Forty-seven percent of women face everyday sexism and microaggressions, and 21% don’t believe harassment is dealt with appropriately.

Twenty-nine percent of women often feel undermined or dismissed in meetings. This barrier exists at every level of leadership and is even more prevalent for women with a disability, lesbians and bisexual women.

Twenty-three percent of women don’t feel able to communicate openly and authentically without being negatively labelled. Again, those with a disability or in the LGBTQI+ community feel even more constrained, resulting in women having to be choiceful about the circumstances in which to express their authenticity and vulnerability.

These barriers are more pronounced in the energy and infrastructure industry, and to some degree the manufacturing industry.

The research findings

One in three women often feel undermined. The key word in this sentence is often. One in four women don’t feel able to communicate openly without being negatively labelled. And sadly, one in five women don’t feel like bullying and harassment are appropriately addressed. Almost one in two women face everyday sexism and microaggressions. And the key word in this sentence is everyday!

Women with a disability feel these issues more acutely, with 46% often feeling undermined and dismissed in meetings, 35% feeling like they can’t speak up without being penalised for it and 31% feeling like bullying and harassment are not dealt with appropriately.

What this means for organisations

Organisations must actively nurture a culture that is psychologically safe and inclusive of all genders. As the traditional male breadwinner model still influences most organisational designs, organisations must adopt a robust policy response aimed at distributing power equitably, and manage passivity and backlash in order to ensure their cultures are safe for all genders.

Six practical actions that organisations can take now:

  1. Stamp out bullying and harassment and be prepared to take the hard decisions associated with this. Communicate your actions to demonstrate what will not be tolerated
  2. Apply equality impact assessments to evaluate job designs, recruitment campaigns and leadership models and frameworks
  3. Update leadership behaviour frameworks to negate passivity and ensure the establishment of psychological safety is a standard expectation of leaders
  4. Adopt annual surveys to measure psychological safety, inclusion and the presence of barriers and discrimination
  5. Build awareness campaigns and allyship to support psychological safety and empowerment for all genders
  6. Leverage employee networks / employee resource groups to learn from members’ experiences, while creating an additional channel for members to express their concerns.

Important note: Monitor complaints closely and carefully. Intersectional employees tend to experience more discrimination; therefore, break down the data into different intersections (e.g., ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, age) for greater understanding and adequate response.