Men will call out a sexist comment if they feel their manager is open to hearing their ideas.

It comes from a study by the global not-for-profit Catalyst, which campaigns for better workplaces for women. 

Catalyst spoke to more than 2,000 men in the UK and other parts of Europe and found the behaviour of managers is the most important aspect to removing sexism from workplaces.


UK workplace attitude to sexism

In the UK, 62 percent of men said they had high levels of manager openness and would stop sexist comments from colleagues. This is compared to 42 men with low levels of manager openness, who said they would challenge sexist comments.

Catalyst wants managers to help employees feel their voices are welcome, even when directly challenging institutional or other sexism – especially when it’s disguised as ‘banter’.

It also wants companies to realise the importance of managers’ shaping the culture at their firm. An HR Review report showed that younger workers more likely to feel alienated and unable to report issues at work, further demonstrating the need for better management.


Researcher advice

Negin Sattari is a researcher on the report and said the findings offer a positive strategy for leaders to fight sexism in their organisations.

Dr. Sattari said: “Managers who are open to employee ideas and, more broadly, workplaces that make employees feel as if they are heard in general can create environments where men are encouraged to speak up in the face of sexist comments.”


Catalyst’s advice for managers includes: 

  1. Opening their eyes and ears:

    Making a conscious effort to find out who their employees are as complete humans with interests, obligations, and experiences outside of their work lives.

  2. Opening their hearts:

    Fostering humility and authenticity by valuing a growth mindset over perfectionism.

  3. Opening their minds:

    Not undervaluing “people skills”—content expertise may be an important aspect of job performance, but how work gets done should be as important as what gets done.

Allyson Zimmermann, the Executive Director, EMEA at Catalyst echoed that managers are crucial to a safe environment that encourages calling out and interrupting sexism.

She said: “The idea of openness may be new to some, but encouraging and implementing these practises will ultimately break the cycle of sexism in the workplace.”