New research: genders divided on workplace discrimination

As part of this month’s focus on women in business, we've been exploring attitudes towards equality in the workplace, as well as its impact on entrepreneurship. This week we unveil the startling results of research commissioned by Virgin and carried out by YouGov on the subject...

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The rise of female entrepreneurship cannot be ignored, with last year seeing women establish more than double the number of businesses than men. These statistics make for encouraging reading as more and more women stake their place in the world of business on their own terms. However, before we look at this rising trend, let’s begin by exploring the current gender dynamics within established businesses.

74% of women believe that in terms of promotion and salary men receive preferential treatment in the workplace, while only 43% of their male counterparts come to the same conclusion – that’s quite a split.

According to our survey, there is a strong agreement that females are still being unfairly overlooked in the workplace, with 59% of those asked confirming that it is their belief that sexist practices are still in place. However, when you separate the responses by gender there is a startling difference.  In fact, 74% of women believe that in terms of promotion and salary men receive preferential treatment in the workplace, while only 43% of their male counterparts come to the same conclusion – that’s quite a split.

However, despite these discouraging figures, our survey suggests that in the long term, a change may be on the horizon. For the younger generation at least, this inequality appears to be less prevalent in their working lives than those of the older generation. Some 45% of 18 - 24 year olds agree that men generally receive preferential treatment to women in the workplace, compared to 66% of over 55s. Similarly, when asked if men and women receive equal treatment in the workplace, 35% of 18 to 24 year olds agreed with the statement whereas only 23% of over 55s agreed.

Today, female entrepreneurs are starting their own businesses younger than ever before, particularly in the field of technology. However, despite the younger generation reporting less inequality than the older population, more and more young women are leaving the workplace behind and branching out into business on their own.

This prompts us to ask whether the promise of workplace equality could be the very thing that’s empowering more women to set up business for themselves? And will those women who become CEOs of their own companies, do more for gender equality than their current male counterparts? 

Even Richard Branson admits that despite an increasing number of women in Virgin boardrooms, his companies still have some way to go in the gender equality stakes: “At Virgin, we have seen a number of women rise to senior positions over the years. At present, Virgin Money and Virgin Holidays are run by female CEOs,” explains the Virgin Founder. “There are many women in senior management at other Virgin companies, but we have much to do as an organization.”

What do you think? Are you surprised by these results? How do you think gender equality influences female entrepreneurship? Does the future of workplace equality rely on more women becoming their own boss? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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