I was recently surprised to read statistics claiming that more than two fifths of men would ‘prefer’ to work in an environment of ‘just male employees’ while only 8% of the men think a women-only office would be ideal for them.

According to HR consultancy Reabur, who conducted the online poll, 64% of men who wanted to work in an all-male workplace put this down to a ‘bitchy environment’ created by ‘some female colleagues’.

These statistics, if accurate, are somewhat disheartening. It’s a real shame to see that a large proportion of men buy into outmoded stereotypes, not to mention the cliche that a female-dominated office is “bitchy”. It is true to say that there can be tension among competing women in the workplace, but this can also be said of a male attitude to work. This can be indicative of a double standard that’s unfairly placed on women in some industries.

Perhaps more depressingly, of the respondents who stated that they would like to be the only man among female employees, the majority, 68%, said this was down to potential ‘romantic opportunities’ and 11% attributed this to there being ‘less competition’ where female professionals were concerned.

The most alarming statistic, however, is that the majority of female respondents (59%), said that they would prefer work in male-dominated workplace. Of this figure, 34% believed this would “reduce the bitchy environment” apparently created by women.

While the proportion of women who felt this way was significantly lower than men, it’s still unfortunate that, given the potential for support and collaboration between female professionals, so many are put off by the notion that women are “bitchy” or “hostile”.

In the course of my career, I’ve had the good fortune to attend an extremely high number of networking events for women. At these functions I’ve met countless female professionals who have been the polar opposite of “bitchy” or “hostile”. In fact, they have attended solely to support, and be supported by, other women in their careers.

In fact, there are many organisations, Women in Technology included, that have been set up specifically to facilitate this kind of female, professional support and bonding. The stigma of “bitchiness” that has been applied to competitive women must be addressed and removed if there is going to be progress towards gender equality in the workplace – and you only have to attend a women’s networking session to experience this in action.

Outside of these events, there are many ways to highlight how employees, regardless of gender, are collectively responsible for their company culture. If there is a hostile working environment, then company directors need to liaise with HR to see if there’s anything in the corporate values or in the example they set that facilitates this atmosphere. If so, this needs to be addressed and boundaries need to be set from the top down. Team-building activities can also help to break the ice and ease tensions in a difficult situation. They can also help each member of staff to gain a better perspective on their individual contributions to the workplace and can help to counter gender stereotypes.

Statistics of this nature are helpful in understanding the challenges that female professionals face in their careers. While they may seem disheartening, they cut straight to the core of the issue and, in a way, reveal a way forward in creating a better working environment for everyone – and more opportunities for women.

About Maggie Berry