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Women in quagmire of gender bias at work


boot in mudNew figures show bonus and flexitime disparity on top of the continued pay gap.

Nothing puts a damper on the annual back-to-school-and-work energy of early autumn better than a new batch of statistics revealing the huge financial disadvantages faced by women in the workplace around the world.

In the UK, male managers are paid bonuses that are double the amount women receive, and, for the first time in five years, male managers’ earnings are rising faster than women’s.

In Australia’s finance industry, bonuses paid to men are three times the amount of those paid to women, and men are more likely to receive bonuses in general – 52 per cent of men versus 44 per cent of women.

Plus, the bonus gap in the sector is increasing, having grown by 28 per cent in 2012.

In the United States, managers are far more likely to approve requests for flexible working patterns from men than from women.

And the likelihood of men being granted flexible working increased if the request was made to advance their career.

Women, on the other hand, were just as likely to have their request turned down whatever the reason, whether for childcare or career development.

Which led the researchers to conclude that ‘managers respect high-status men more than high-status women’.

Bonuses paid to managers in the UK put numbers to that claim, with research by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) finding that male managers received an average of £6,442 in bonus pay while women received an average of £3,029.

Over a lifetime, that is £141,000 more for men than women – in bonus pay only.

At the most senior levels of management, the disparity in bonuses is even greater. Women directors receive an average bonus of £36,270, whereas male directors receive £63,700.

Dr Ruth Sealy, senior research fellow at the Cranford School of Management, said, ‘It is not surprising. Bonuses are a method of payment that can be used with discretion.’

Ann Francke, CMI’s chief executive, called the news shocking and bad for business.

‘If organisations don’t tap into and develop their female talent right through to the highest levels, they will miss out on growth, employee engagement and more ethical management cultures.’

Women are still financially penalised if they have children, with the average female executive earning on average £423,390 less than the average male executive over a lifetime.

The slow pace of change in the workplace is exacerbating the gap, with many women forced to take lower paid, often part-time, jobs that are below their professional ability and that are ‘occupations [with] less of a culture of bonus payments,’ said Mark Crail, XpertHR’s head of salary surveys.

Maria Miller, minister for women and equalities, said ‘The Government is playing its part.

‘We have made pay secrecy clauses illegal, and we’ve introduc[ed] shared parental leave and the right to request flexible working to all employees.’

Businesses, however, continue to show themselves less than willing in making the necessary changes.

In the two years that it has been running, only 120 organisations have signed up to the government’s Think, Act, Report programme that encourages companies to improve the way they recruit, promote and pay women.

Writing in the Telegraph, Cristina Odone, research fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, disagreed with the claims that it is predominantly institutional change standing in the way between equality in the workplace.

‘Most women between 20-45, from all walks of life, lack the will, and sometimes the gumption, to rise to the top in their profession.’

Francke disagrees, saying ‘This is about changing our approach to management to allow for greater flexibility, less masculine cultures, more emphasis on outcomes rather than time in the office and greater transparency around performance and rewards.’

For true cultural change to occur, CMI recommends three broad actions:

Demand measurement and public reporting of equality

Extend flexible working for both genders, especially at the most senior levels

Sponsor and mentor women

‘Diversity,’ said Francke, ‘delivers results.’

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