Women workers ‘twice as likely as men to be asked to make the tea’

‘Our choice of words is creating barriers to inclusivity in the workplace,’ says expert

Rob Knight
Monday 03 October 2022 09:26 BST
<p>Many female workers said they were ‘persistently being called lady, sweetheart, or darling’ </p>

Many female workers said they were ‘persistently being called lady, sweetheart, or darling’

Women at work are more than twice as likely to be asked to make tea or coffee for everyone than men, a poll claims.

The survey of 2,000 UK employees found gender-biased language and use of stereotypes is widespread within workplaces, with 42 per cent of women claiming they will be asked to make a round compared to just 16 per cent of men.

Women were also more likely (50 per cent against 21 per cent) to be asked about the wellbeing of their children, and to do menial or administration-based tasks (37 per cent against 19 per cent). The research was commissioned by Samsung.

It also emerged women were made the target of sexist jokes almost three times more often than men (43 per cent againt 15 per cent). Those polled said they heard gender-biased language in their workplace an average of four times a week.

Specific instances included “persistently being called lady, sweetheart, or darling” and “being referred to as a woman ‘of my age’ after requesting a fan”. Some 40 per cent had experienced this language in meetings and 30 per cent during job interviews.

Tanya Weller, of Samsung, said: “The findings have revealed some shocking stereotypes used towards women at work and how our choice of words is creating barriers to inclusivity in the workplace.

“Like all things, language adapts with time, and we know that as a society, we must evolve with it, by implementing a roadmap that drives greater equality and inclusion.”

However, the research suggests UK employees are starting to challenge this vocabulary, with 64 per cent saying they had done so. Of those, 28 per cent highlighted it to the person directly, 22 per cent reported it to their boss and 14 per cent went to HR.

At the same time, 92 per cent said they were making a conscious effort to use inclusive language at work with terms such as “team” and “all”.

However, 19 per cent have wanted to correct someone at work for not using such terms but chose not to because they didn’t have the confidence.

Jackye Clayton, of Textio, a language software company, said: “Employers throughout the UK must take proactive steps to foster inclusive language, to attract talent and build a workplace which promotes inclusivity.

“With almost half of UK employees using gender-biased language at work, companies must do more to understand how and where unconscious bias is showing up and take action to remove it.

“It’s only by doing this that companies can become truly inclusive to everyone.”

Carried out through OnePoll, the survey found just 20 per cent of employees were fully aware of what their company was doing to challenge gender-biased language.

Actions they said they would like their employers to take include offering inclusivity training (47 per cent), training on gendered language (30 per cent), and a review of terms used in job descriptions (28 per cent).

There is also support for a review of external messaging language as seen on company websites and careers pages (27 per cent), and a desire for positive messaging or signage in offices (24 per cent).

Ms Weller added: “These findings tell us the crucial role language plays in normalising gender stereotypes at work.

“Subtle phrases like ‘Hi guys’ is something many of us say without thinking, but maybe without realising it, we’re alienating people.

“This acts as a great reminder to be thoughtful in the way we express ourselves as individuals and as businesses.”

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