International Women’s Day 2023 is a good time to reflect on the status of women in the workplace. Continuing last year’s tradition, HiBob conducted a survey of 2,000 full-time professionals aged 25 and above in the UK. The participants, comprising women and men, work in either a hybrid or office-based environment.
The survey explores gender-related workplace issues, including compensation, promotions, retention, company culture, salary, work-life balance, and perceptions held of women. The survey’s findings provide valuable insights into the challenges and prospects women in the UK encounter professionally.
1. A significant proportion of professional women in the UK believe that men were promoted more frequently or sooner than women.
While 63% of professional women in the UK believed that both genders were promoted equally, 40% of women disagreed. The perception is troubling because it suggests that female employees may not have equal career advancement opportunities at their companies. The study also highlights gender disparities in promotion rates, with only 16% of women receiving promotions compared to 23% of men.
2. Women were less likely to receive benefits than men.
Compared to their male counterparts, many UK professional women believe they are less likely to receive benefits. According to our findings, only 7% of women received benefit increases, compared to 20% of men.
3. Women in the UK express higher levels of confidence in their performance than men.
Professional women in the UK were more confident in their abilities than their male counterparts. In the survey, 92% of women said they were very or mostly confident in their work, while 82% of males said the same. Also, only 1% of women acknowledged having constant confidence issues, compared to 6% of men. These findings contradict the notion that women lack confidence in the workplace and that confidence issues are responsible for the differences in promotion rates.
4. Women in the UK are still struggling more than men to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
When it comes to achieving a healthy work-life balance, professional women in the UK face more obstacles than men. Women and men have distinct perspectives on how their work-life balance will change. Women are more inclined to believe that nothing will change, whereas males believe that their work-life balance would either improve or deteriorate. Yet, women value a healthy work-life balance, and flexibility is the top priority when looking for a new job. Women prefer a hybrid workweek that allows them to work from home or the office, and women are more likely than men to choose a 4-day work week. However, there are barriers that women encounter in achieving a healthy work-life balance. Women, for example, are less likely to receive women-specific benefits, such as extended paid maternity leave or time off during menopause.
5. Once women find a job they appreciate, they tend to stick with the company.
The study found that once women find a job they enjoy, they prefer to stay with the same business for a long time. 75% of women, compared to 62% of men, are still working for the same employer they did a year ago. It’s interesting that men were more likely than women to say they were leaving their jobs (14% vs. 10%, respectively) or were planning to do so (15%).
6. Women value flexibility and pay raises more highly than men.
Women prioritise flexibility and pay more highly than men when considering a new job. 58% of women deemed a flexible work schedule crucial, compared to only 42% of men. Furthermore, 77% of women said a pay increase would be a decisive factor, while only 60% of men agreed. The ideal flexible work set-up for both genders is a 5-day hybrid work week, providing the freedom to work from home or the office. Despite women’s preference for a 4-day work week, it seems that flexible, hybrid work models born out of the pandemic are becoming the established choice for most women.
Do you feel women are promoted equally compared to men within your company?
While the majority of respondents (63%) felt that both genders were promoted equally, a significant proportion of women (40%) believed that men were more frequently or promoted sooner than women. This perception is concerning as it suggests that female employees may not feel they have equal opportunities for career advancement within their company. Additionally, the finding that only 16% of women received a promotion compared to 23% of men highlights the existence of gender disparities in promotion rates.
Were you promoted in pay, benefits, or position upgrades in 2022?
Approximately one-fifth of the respondents stated they had been given a promotion, yet there was a clear disparity between women and men—16% of women reported being promoted, compared to 23% of men. The study also looked at pay and benefit increases, and there too, women were at a disadvantage. Only 7% of women received pay increases compared to 20% of men. Companies need to address this disparity in promotions to ensure equal opportunities for women.
Expectations were similar between genders—12% of both women and men respondents expected to receive a promotion in 2023. However, fewer women applied for a promotion—only 3% compared to 7% of men.
Do you feel confident in your performance?
Professional women in the UK are more confident in their performance than their male counterparts. 92% of women stated that they felt very or mostly confident, compared with 82% of men. Additionally, only 1% of women admitted to constantly struggling with feeling confident in their performance, compared to 6% of men.
Do you expect your work-life balance to improve in 2023?
Women and men had different expectations when it came to work-life balance. A higher proportion of women predicted that there would be no change in their work-life balance, whereas men were more likely to forecast that their work-life balance would either be better or worse in the future.
Did you leave your job in 2022?
The results indicate a clear pattern of job stability among a significant portion of women—a whopping 75% of women are still employed at the same company as they were last year compared to only 62% of men. It might be because women are afraid they won’t find another job, while men are more confident in this respect. Interestingly, a higher proportion of men reported quitting their job (14%) or planning to leave (15%) compared to women (12% and 10%, respectively), also pointing to a gender-based difference in job mobility.
What would convince you to take a job with a new employer?
Women are most focused on flexibility and pay when considering a new job. 58% stated that a flexible work schedule would be a deciding factor in accepting a new job, compared to only 42% of men. When it comes to pay, the difference is even greater—77% of women said an increase in pay would be a deciding factor, while only 60% of men said the same.
On the other hand, women are less drawn to mentorship, with only 12% saying it would influence their decision to take a new job, compared to 19% of men. However, the study also reveals similarities in priorities between the genders. Both women and men place similar weight on factors such as clear paths to promotion, a positive company culture, learning and development opportunities, and job security.
Recognising and addressing the diverse priorities and needs of employees, particularly those of women, can help employers create a fulfilling and accommodating workplace for all employees.
What is your ideal flexible work setup?
The most popular ideal flexible work set-up is a 5-day hybrid workweek with the freedom to work from home or at the office. Both women and men are in favour of this flexible arrangement. In contrast, the option of a set, 5-day hybrid working week was not as well received, with only 10% of women in favour.
Women are more inclined toward a 4-day work week than men—19% vs. 13%, respectively. However, the idea of a 4-day week coupled with a 20% pay decrease was a non-starter, garnering only 5% support from respondents with little gender disparity. These findings suggest that the flexible, hybrid work models born out of the pandemic have become the preferred choice for the majority of women and men employees.
What are your top reasons for going into the office?
Despite both groups agreeing that face-to-face interactions with colleagues and team members are crucial, the results suggest that women are more likely to come to the office to develop social connections or due to company requirements, while men focus more on their career advancement. 32% of women respondents reported going to the office due to a company requirement, while only 19% of men reported the same. However, only 8% of women view coming into the office as essential for their career progression or accessing new opportunities, while 20% of men held the same viewpoint.
Do you feel that men and women are paid equally for the same role at your company?
The results of the study indicate a significant difference in perception between women and men regarding pay equality in the workplace. Only 55% of female respondents believe that women and men are paid equally for the same role, while 67% of male respondents share the same belief. On the other hand, 27% of all respondents believe that men are paid more than women, with a higher percentage of women (35%) holding this belief compared to men (18%).
These results suggest that there is still a significant pay gap between women and men, and more work needs to be done to close it. The difference in how women and men see the pay gap is also worth noting and could point to the need for more pay transparency.
Is your organisation making efforts to improve salary transparency?
Both women and men believe that their organisation is not making efforts to improve salary transparency. Almost twice as many women (33%) as compared to men (19%) reported that their organisation does not publish or share any salary information whatsoever, and only 24% of the women respondents said their organisation publishes salary information and ranges for job descriptions.
This raises concerns about how transparent and equitable the pay process is in organisations. Transparency in salary information is key to building trust and a sense of fairness and should be a top priority for organisations.
Has your company made a visible commitment to developing more women leaders in the last year?
Despite the fact that 37% of respondents believe their company has made a clear commitment to promoting more women leaders, the number of women promoted in 2022 was significantly lower than the previous year. The gender gap is also evident in the results, with fewer women (32%) believing that their company has made a visible commitment to developing more women leaders compared to 42% of men. Further reinforcing a perception of gender inequality, a higher percentage of women (35%) believe that their company has not made a visible commitment to developing more women leaders compared to men (22%).
Overall, these results show that companies need to do more to create a more inclusive and fair workplace and close the gap between what people think and what is actually happening.
Attitude towards women
Does your company offer, or have they expanded, women-specific benefits?
Although 32% of women stated that their company offers extended, paid maternity leave, 39% of women said their company does not offer any women-specific benefits at all. The data also reveals a striking contrast between male and female perceptions of women-specific benefits. For instance, 32% of women said that their company offers extended paid maternity leave, while 43% of men agreed with the statement. The discrepancy indicates that men may not be aware of the benefits they do not utilise themselves.
Menopause and the workplace
Menopause is a natural and inevitable part of many women’s lives that can affect their wellbeing and productivity at work. Menopausal women make up a large and ever-growing demographic in the UK workforce. The Office for National Statistics reports that approximately 4.5 million women of menopausal age are part of the UK workforce, but alarmingly, one in 10, or 900,000 women, have left their jobs due to menopausal symptoms. To reduce absenteeism, employers must prioritise effective symptom management.
However, HiBob’s research reveals a worrying disparity in the perception of menopausal support in the workplace. While only 16% of women reported their company offered women-specific benefits, such as time off or flexible working arrangements during menopause, 27% of men claimed their company did.
Considering this, companies should prioritise menopause benefits and communicate their efforts transparently to support and value women in the workplace. Failure to do so may negatively affect employee retention and morale.
Where do you experience your company’s attitude towards women?
According to the study, the majority of women (41%) believe that the visibility of women in their day-to-day work reflects their company’s attitude towards women. In contrast, only 27% of women believe that the executive leadership of their company reflects the same. This difference between what women believe to be the strongest indicator of a company’s attitude towards women and the actual representation of women in executive positions speaks to the ongoing challenges faced by women in the workplace. The results also show that there is still a significant proportion of women (24%) who do not experience a particular attitude towards women in their company.
Has a colleague ever made you feel uncomfortable or less qualified in the workplace because of your gender?
The data suggests that gender-based discrimination and bias are still prevalent in the workplace and must be addressed. However, there was not a significant difference between women and men respondents in this area.
Have you witnessed “mansplaining” towards yourself or female colleagues in the workplace?
The good news is that over a third of women and men reported never witnessing “mansplaining” at work. While the overall numbers are relatively positive, it’s notable that women reported witnessing this patronising behaviour at a slightly higher frequency than men. Almost a quarter of all respondents reported witnessing “mansplaining” towards female colleagues at least once a week, while over a third reported witnessing it “almost never.”
These results suggest that while “mansplaining” is still present in some workplace environments, there is also a significant number of respondents also work in gender-bias-free environments, which is a positive trend toward equality in the workplace.
The impact of the current economic downturn
Have worries about your job security impacted your decisions when it comes to parenthood and family?
The majority of women do not feel that their job security will impact their decisions regarding parenthood and family. In fact, women are more secure in this area—33% of women stated that they are not fearful of losing their job when it comes to starting a family, compared to 25% of men.
While it is encouraging to see that a significant number of women are confident in their job security, it is worth noting that a smaller proportion of women (6%) have actually put off getting pregnant or starting a family due to job security fears, compared to 15% of men. There is still some room for improvement in creating a gender-bias-free workplace where women are just as confident in their job security as their male counterparts.
During the current economic downturn, how worried are you about being let go?
Overall, these results indicate that the majority of respondents are not overly concerned about job security during the economic downturn, which is a positive sign in these uncertain times. Women appear to be the least worried, with 39% saying they are not worried, compared to 29% of men. This difference may stem from the fact that men are more likely to consider leaving a job for better job security than women.
Although women professionals in the UK have made some positive strides, there are still many challenges to overcome.
Significant strides have been made in recent years, such as increasing representation in leadership positions and implementing policies to address issues such as pay equity and parental leave.
Women expressed higher levels of confidence in their performance than men. This is an encouraging sign that speaks to women’s competence and their ability to succeed in the workplace in contrast to their male counterparts.
With the trend towards hybrid and flexible work models, many companies have realised that women value flexibility and have diverse priorities and needs. As a result, they are implementing changes to accommodate these priorities.
Even though “mansplaining” is still present in some workplace environments, the good news is that a large number of respondents work in gender-bias-free environments.
When it comes to decisions regarding parenthood and family, the majority of women don’t feel that their job security will impact those choices. It’s an excellent sign that companies are recognising the importance of work-life balance and providing the necessary support to make it possible for women to thrive both at work and home.
Women continue to face barriers and biases that can limit their opportunities and advancement. They are significantly more likely than men to believe that men were promoted more frequently or faster. Women were also less likely to receive benefits than men, and they still struggle more than men to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Added to this, women are at a disadvantage regarding promotions, pay increases, and position upgrades. This is compounded by the fact that fewer women apply for promotions compared to men
To create a truly inclusive and equitable workplace, we must continue to challenge these biases and actively work towards creating a culture that values diversity and supports the success of all employees, regardless of gender.