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Underlying gender bias holding women back

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Stereotypes personally affect the lives of both men and women, at work and at home, research finds

Underlying gender bias is holding women back at work, according to an international study commissioned by Unilever.

The Unstereotyped Mindset, which interviewed more than 9,000 men and women across eight markets, found that 77% of men and 55% of women believe that a man is the best choice to lead a high stakes project.

Additionally, 60% of women and 49% of men felt that stereotypes personally affect their career, their personal life, or both.

Men and women alike said they struggle speaking up about workplace discrimination and inappropriate behaviour. Two-thirds (67%) of women reported feeling that they are ‘pressured’ to ‘get over’ inappropriate behaviour. Just over half (55%) of men and even more (64%) women believe that men do not challenge each other on such behaviour.

Three out of four respondents (75%) placed the responsibility for taking action on senior leaders, highlighting the need for businesses to step in.

Speaking in a panel discussion at the 2017 World Economic Forum annual meeting, Unilever’s chief executive officer Paul Polman shared his vision to tackle these issues and called on other leaders to do the same.

“Empowering women and girls offers the single biggest opportunity for human development and economic growth,” he said. “It goes without saying, it’s crucial for business. The World Economic Forum’s latest Gender Gap Report notes that we may not achieve economic equality among men and women for another 170 years. That’s just not good enough. We need to lead the change in tackling unhelpful stereotypes that hold women – and men – back.

“We are on a journey to achieve unstereotyped mindsets inside and outside our company. But we can’t do it alone. We are calling for a conscious effort from individuals, government and businesses – big and small – to step up, root out and challenge the stereotypes that feed inequality and halt progress.”