Outdated employer attitudes are still holding women back at work

A new report highlights the prevalence and persistence of gender stereotypes, which continue to make work more difficult for young women.

women at work in the mid-20th century - black and white

Employers are five times more likely to say men — rather than women — are ambitious, according to a new report

But actually nearly half of young women say they would like to be the boss one day, according to research by Young Women’s Trust.

It’s not a lack of ambition holding women back, the charity’s report shows, it’s sexist stereotypes that cause managers to discriminate against female employees — whether they know they are doing so or not.

The charity’s report on employer attitudes, released today, shows that men are also considered to be more confident, while women are more “conscientious”.

Two fifths of employers said men were more likely to ask for pay rises (40 per cent) and promotions (39 per cent) than women, despite the fact women were on average viewed as more reliable employees than men.

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said:

“Young women do not lack ambition but too often they are held back by employers who – knowingly or not – discriminate against them.

“It’s no wonder women are held back in the workplace when those making hiring decisions have such outdated views. It is employers and our economy that miss out on the talents of young women as a result.”

Easton added that many young women struggle to make ends meet despite being in work.

An earlier report found that a third of young parents expect to get into debt this Christmas, as food costs rise and wages stagnate.

29 per cent of 18-30-year-olds told Young Women’s Trust they expect to incur expenses they cannot afford over the festive period, but women were in more danger than men, with one in five compared likely to end up in debt, compared to one in seven men.

The new report found women are also often discriminated against because employers think they might leave to have a baby, or because they actually have one.

15 per cent of employers admitted to being “reluctant to hire a woman who I thought may go on to have children” and another 14 per agreed with the statement: “I would be concerned about recruiting women in their 20s and 30s who might have children in the future”.

A quarter said that being pregnant of having a young child would impact whether or not a woman was promoted.

A report by the charity earlier this year found that young mothers struggle the most with money. 61 per cent aged 16-24 said that they were only just about managing financially and nearly half regularly missed meals in order to provide for their children.

More than a quarter of young mums currently use foodbanks or have used them in the past.

Easton said:

“We need urgent action to improve young women’s prospects and give them hope for the future.

“This means giving them the right skills and support to find jobs, ensuring decent and flexible jobs are available, making childcare accessible and affordable and changing the law to ensure under-25s are entitled to the same National Living Wage as everyone else.

“This would benefit businesses and the economy too.”

One small positive finding was that 63 per cent of employers admitted sexism in the workplace still exists — although only 31 per cent admitted to it existing in their workplace— signifying some are at least willing to acknowledge and work on tackling the problem.

However, unsurprisingly, overwhelmingly more women managers — 76 per cent, compared to 54 per cent of men — recognised the issue.

Charlotte England is a freelance journalist and writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

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