Covert and overt sexism thrives in Britain's workplaces


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The Independent Online

It’s easy to recognise the sexism in an unwanted hand on a knee, a lascivious comment or a lecherous leer. But while these forms of overt harassment still happen in workplaces around Britain, the most common discrimination is more hidden.

Starting a family still seems to be at the root of the most dramatic gender gap. More than eight in 10 women say they think having children will affect their career progression (or has already). It is doubtful that anything like as many men would fear such an outcome from fatherhood.

While increasing numbers of employers now offer flexible working time, the pay-off is frequently a career that stalls or goes backwards. It is often assumed that someone working fewer hours wants less responsibility.

This perception of part-time as second-rate is bad news for fathers as well as mothers. The reaction of bosses when enlightened dads ask for their full allowance of paternity leave can often be worse than if they were women making an equivalent request.

Some of the battle lines that prevent women’s career progression are outside the office. A friend was recently dismissed from an office night out with a pointed “goodnight then” when her senior male colleague decided to take a group of men on to a club afterwards. The message was clear: this is lads’ time now.