New research reveals that four in five managers (81%) have witnessed some form of gender discrimination or bias at work in the past 12 months.

According to CMI Women, the UK economy will need two million new managers by 2024 – and 1.5 million will need to be women to achieve gender balance.

The survey of 851 UK managers, carried out by the CMI, found that inappropriate remarks, gender bias in recruitment and promotion decisions, and gender inequality in pay and rewards are still proving major barriers to gender equality in many organisations. This is despite the fact that bridging the gender gap in the UK by 2025 would add as much as £150bn to the economy.

Asked what behaviours they had personally witnessed in the past 12 months, 50 per cent of managers pointed to gender bias in recruitment/promotion decisions, while 42 per cent said they had seen inequality in pay and rewards. Over two-thirds of managers said they saw women struggling to make their views heard in meetings, and four in five said they had witnessed inappropriate remarks (such as comments with sexualised overtones masquerading as ‘banter’).

While the research finds that men are less likely than women to witness gender discriminatory behaviour, it also reveals that progress is being made and there is a wider will for change, with the majority acting to promote gender balance:

Minister for Women, Equalities and Early Years, Caroline Dinenage said:

Gender discrimination is completely unacceptable – women should never be held back just because of their gender. Shining a light on this issue is absolutely key to achieving equality in the workplace, which is why we are introducing requirements on all large employers to publish their gender pay and bonus data from April.

But equality is everyone’s business – and it benefits both men and women alike. Men have an important role to play in championing gender equality and this initiative will encourage even more men to actively drive this issue so that all employees can reach their full potential.‎”

The survey shows male managers strongly support gender parity, with 84% in favour of a gender balanced workplace. The survey also reveals that three-quarters (75%) believe men in senior leadership roles have a particular responsibility to support the career development of talented women.

Ann Francke, CEO at CMI, said:

It’s amazing that four in five managers have witnessed some form of gender biased-behaviour at work in the past year. Achieving a better gender balance is essential to boosting the UK’s productivity, which lags far behind our G7 competitors. If we’re to meet this ambitious target, then managers at all levels must call out behaviour that discriminates against women and encourage equality within their workplace.

Of course, there are many things that managers, and particularly men in senior roles, can do. There are the big things like championing better flexible working arrangements and sponsoring and mentoring women. But there are the everyday things, like giving everyone an equal chance to be heard in meetings, and to cut out the ‘locker room’ banter that is holding us all back.”


Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.