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‘Barrier bosses’ standing in the way of gender equality


Recruitment decision makers are less likely to believe in equality of opportunity than the general population

‘Barrier bosses’ could be standing in the way of gender equality, according to the Fawcett Society’s forthcoming Sex Equality – State of the Nation report.

The research surveyed 1,422 recruitment decision makers, a group found to be less likely to be interested in and see the benefits of equality of opportunity than the general population. This group were more than twice as likely (16%) as the overall population (7%) to be against equality of opportunity for the sexes, and more likely to believe they would personally lose out if women and men were treated more equally.

A quarter of this group (24%) believe that a more equal society would not be better for the economy, compared to just 13% UK-wide. More than one in eight (14%) think they would lose out if men and women were treated more equally, three and a half times the proportion of those not involved in recruitment (4%).

Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers said that a significant minority of ‘barrier bosses’ are holding equality back. “They are the ones with the power over recruitment and their decisions are likely to be informed by their attitudes to equality,” she said. “There are many progressive employers working hard to drive change, but if they are wondering what is holding up progress in their organisation this may explain why.

“Whether it is conscious or unconscious bias, this is discrimination in action. These are the people responsible for implementing equal opportunities policies yet 16% say they are opposed to the idea.”

The report also found that six in 10 people believe men in top jobs won’t make room for women unless they have to, with 64% of women and more than half (55%) of men stating this. Half (49%) of recruitment decision makers also shared this view.

Encouragingly, however, men were found to be even more in favour of equality than the women interviewed, with 86% of men wanting equality of opportunity for the women in their lives, compared to 81% of women wanting it for themselves.