Voice of the Employee

Almost three quarters (70%) of women have not been offered a promotion at their current employer, with 41% of females claiming opportunities are not made available to them because of their gender.

The findings come from a 3-part research series from global recruiter Robert Walters, who surveyed 4,500 female professionals across the UK ahead of International Women’s Day (Sunday 8th March). The first report in the series: Striving for Gender Parity.

Over a third (34%) of women are ‘not at all aware’ of what they need to do to receive a promotion, whilst a further 21% have stated they ‘could do with more support’ to improve their understanding of how to progress.

Chris Hickey, UK CEO at Robert Walters, said: “Women make up 47% workforce and so for an organisation it seems counter-productive to not help unleash the full potential of half of your company’s talent.

“This report highlights the very real reasons why women face barriers to progression, and what’s more the steps companies can take are simple ones – but they need to be done with meaning and follow-through, rather than as a tick-box exercise.”


  • Balancing Act

Over a third (35%) of women claim balancing work and family commitments is a barrier to progression. When assessing workplace perks it is clear to see that flexi-hours are of more benefit to women (63%) compared to men (48%).

Janine Blacksley, Director of Robert Walters Milton Keynes, comments: “With the rise in smart-working practices and the tech-enabled remote working capabilities; flexi-working should be something that all employers consider building into their policies (where possible).

“All too often I see hesitancy in companies wanting to hand over power around their employees working hours, without considering the business benefits to the company. Research shows us that flexible working arrangements increase job satisfaction, improve work life balance – and therefore reduce workplace stress – and increase employees’ overall morale and motivation.”

  • Out-of-date Training Opportunities

44% of women listed training opportunities as an important workplace perk. In addition, 61% of women stated that training is a key aid in their progression. However, over a third (35%) state that there are no relevant training courses available to them.

Lucy Bisset, Director of Robert Walters North West adds: “Employers know the benefits of an effective training programme – from upskilling existing staff rather than recruiting new people, to remaining competitive in the market, and retaining staff by investing in them and making them feel valued.

“What this report highlights is not that training is not available, but that it is not relevant to women in the workplace. Beyond company wide process and procedures, training should be tailored, and this comes down to management understanding the needs and skill levels of their team.”

  • Lack of Diversity

A third (35%) of women state that their company’s management team is not demographically representative, with 21% claiming that they do not feel their company is committed to this.

As a result, a quarter (23%) of women feel that lack of diversity in senior management holds them back. This challenge seems to impact women at Senior Manager level particularly – with 32% of women stating that a lack of diversity at their level holds them back. This figure is 30% higher than men who feel the same.

In addition, whilst 28% of employers have a Diversity Network in place, half of women (46%) believe this to be a ‘tick box’ by their employer and are unsure as to whether such networks help women in their workplace.

The uptake of such schemes is low – 40% of women are involved vs 33% of men. What is most disappointing is that 39% of men have said that Diversity Networks are not something that they would ever get involved with.

Habiba Khatoon, Director of Robert Walters Midlands, said: “What this report highlights is that women – from junior through to senior levels – see a lack of gender representation (at their level or above) as a key barrier to them being able to progress. What is most concerning is the correlation between lack of representation and unconscious bias – with 55% of women having experienced this within their team, significantly more than men. Whilst largely hidden, employers need to understand the effects of unconscious bias and take active steps on how they can best eliminate this.”

  • Confidence Issues

A quarter of women (22%) state that their lack of confidence holds them back in the workplace – this is double the number of men (13%) that suffer from low self-esteem at work.

This trend continues right through to women at the senior level – where 16% of women admit a lack of confidence still impacts them, vs. just 7% of men.

The difference is apparent when we consider discussions around salary – with men being 23% more likely to negotiate pay compared to women.

Despite the fact that over half of women (54%) are unsatisfied with their pay and don’t believe it to be a fair reflection of the work that they do, an overwhelming 57% of women have never attempted to negotiate their salary.

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