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Are women at a disadvantage in the workplace?

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From the farcical #WomenAgainstFeminism social media campaign, to the recent string of news reports following the hiring and subsequent scrutiny of female sports coaches and managers, the modern day workplace is starting to relinquish some of its promise.

A rose-tinted view of the world of work would suggest life could not be better for women and that the increasing number of women entering the very much male-dominated arena of sport, for example, is something to be commended. Indeed this is true but the endless evaluation of their merits and patronising sexism that has accompanied this is demonstrating that there is a large gap between the image presented and the backward mind-set that still exists.

A “maternity risk”

As the most contentious sports stories of the past few months have been focused on gender debates, these examples seemed fitting to highlight the disadvantages that women still face in the workplace. One example of this that might not seem a stretch too far from Clermont Foot’s Corrinne Diacre being handed flowers on the pitch is being confused for a secretary or “tea-lady”, as a Guardian article recently cited to be an experience that female readers may be familiar with. Being branded as a “maternity risk” was also alluded to as a setback that is still frequently thought about by some interviewers, according to the article.

Improvements… But not enough 

With all these unconscious associations with women in inferior professional positions it may come as little surprise that female business owners comprise only 17 percent of UK entrepreneurial roles overall. However it is reassuring to see further initiatives taken by Nick Clegg and the Under Secretary for Employment Relations, Jo Swinson to make the workplace more “family-friendly”, including splitting parental leave and greater investments into tax-free childcare.

It is also vital to emphasise the measures that have been undertaken by many UK businesses and educational institutions to combat such shortcomings. Clegg explained in a speech earlier this year that raising the strength of the female workforce could boost the UK’s GDP by around £23 billion, highlighting the success of this mentality for the economies of Sweden and Switzerland.

The pay gap

Furthermore the pay gap has now reduced to just less than 10% for full-time workers. The Women on Boards report also demonstrates an effort by the government to encourage a growth of women in decision-making roles. Due to this focus women now make up around 20 percent of FTSE 100 board members, including the report’s sponsor Barclays. This is a large step forward for UK businesses and is accompanied by the growth in university scholarships created solely to further the position of women in the workplace.

This has particular emphasis on encouraging more young women to enter careers in scientific fields of work or others that are traditionally dominated by men. So whilst the sports industry may be lagging behind in its mentality towards the role of women, it seems that the modern business world is gradually trying to break down these mind-sets and limitations.

Do you think women are at a disadvantage in the workplace? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: Cory M. Grenier / Flickr

Victoria MckeeverAre women at a disadvantage in the workplace?

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