March 17, 2014
Sexism in the workplace is not precisely new, and according to Forbes, at least two recent studies suggest it is a global phenomenon. That is not to say sexism is the same everywhere, and there can be a great deal of variation in how certain nations interpret gender bias, which of its citizens are most impacted, and how far they will go to combat it.
A new study from the firm Robert Half finds that a full two-thirds of male and female employees in the UK believe that women experience career barriers due to gender, and 73 percent say they believe societal perception is a major factor in creating a glass ceiling. Not all age groups are impacted equally, however, and it would seem millennial women suffer the most: 42 percent of women age 18 to 34 report experiencing sexism in the workplace followed by 34 percent of Gen Xers and 26 percent of Boomers.
"While business leaders are taking steps to level the playing field between men and women in the workplace, our research shows that these inroads are not being felt by the employees themselves," Estelle James, director of Robert Half UK, said in the report. "Businesses need to eradicate the 'old boys club' mentality and allocate adequate resources to ensure that the glass ceiling becomes the glass elevator."
Forbes reports that American millennials tend to hold many of the same attitudes regarding sexism in the workplace as their UK counterparts, but that those gender-based disparities do not become apparent until later in the game. According to a recent study from Pew Research, 51 percent of millennial women in the U.S. believe society favors men over women, and 75 percent say more change is necessary to achieve workplace gender equality. On the other hand, far fewer American millennial women report having personally faced gender discrimination than those in the UK -- 15 percent to 42 percent, respectively.
Societal and cultural views and attitudes regarding sexism could at least partly explain the disparity between young UK and young American women, suggests Forbes. Studies have shown that sexism in the workplace has been somewhat downgraded in seriousness in the United States, and that women often believe reporting or drawing attention to such discrimination could have negative career consequences. Forbes also suggests that though U.S. women tend to earn less than their male colleagues right from the get-go, the wage gap does not really begin opening up until age 35. By the time women retire, they earn just 75 to 80 percent of what men do.
Another nation that has made headlines recently for its efforts to curb sexism both in and out of the workplace is Belgium, which, according to Daily Mail, recently unveiled legislation that will make sexist insults a crime both in and out of the workplace. The new law, thought to be the first of its kind, will make it a crime to insult a woman for wearing revealing clothing, but also to mock stay-at-home fathers. The laws apply in the workplace, on the street and online, and violators are subject to fines. Belgian Equality Minister Joelle Milquet said that while men will receive the same protections under the legislation, it was drafted with women in mind.
"Men do not realise that women hear sexist remarks on a daily basis," Milquet told a Brussels newspaper, as reported by Daily Mail. "These little insults shouted out at women by groups of youths … are trivialised in our society. This has to stop."
Compiled by Aimee Hosler
"Belgium's ban on sexist insults," dailymail.co.uk, Paul Donnelley, March 13, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2580576/Belgium-bans-sexist-insults.html
"More Than A Third Of UK Female Employees Have Faced Barriers During Their Career, While Nearly Half Of HR Directors Believe Progress Is Being Made," roberthalf.co.uk, March 7, 2014, http://www.roberthalf.co.uk/id/PR-03852/women-still-facing-gender-barriers-in-uk-business
"On Pay Gap, Millennial Women Near Parity -- For Now," pewsocialtrends.org, December 11, 2013, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/12/11/on-pay-gap-millennial-women-near-parity-for-now/
"When It Comes to Workplace Sexism, Millennial Women Suffer Most," forbes.com, March 11, 2014, J. Maureen Henderson, http://www.forbes.com/sites/jmaureenhenderson/2014/03/11/when-it-comes-to-workplace-sexism-millennial-women-suffer-most/