Half of working women in the UK (57%) believe that unconscious bias is the biggest barrier to workplace success, with male-dominated leaders often hiring “in their own image,” according to a new report from recruitment firm Badenoch and Clark.

The research revealed that one in three (31%) respondents consider themselves to be at a disadvantage to men, who they say are still offered greater career opportunities.

Nicola Linkleter, managing director of Badenoch & Clark, said:

“We must look to businesses and sectors that are successfully changing the status quo and creating a culture of gender equality and learn from them and their methods,” she says.

“Ultimately recognising and challenging gender biases in the workplace will have dramatic and positive implications for businesses. Those that manage it will not only be better at attracting and retaining top talent, they will be more successful.”

Gender bias was found to be more pronounced in the private sector, with 20 percent of respondents in that sector saying they had been passed over for a promotion compared to just eight percent in the public sector.

However, despite concerns of unconscious bias continuing to arise due to lack of training and support, the figures suggest that the state of gender diversity in the workplace is improving.

The report states:

“An encouraging 84 percent of the female professionals that we surveyed said they had never been overlooked for a promotion as a result of their gender; over two thirds (67%) of our respondents also believe the professional playing field to be a level one between men and women where the availability of opportunities is concerned.”