Thursday 16th March 2023

Figures show extent of workplace sexism and barriers to women’s housing career progress

Find out what new figures released on International Women’s Day 2023 (8 March) reveal...

Figures show extent of workplace sexism and barriers to women’s housing career progress

New figures released on International Women’s Day 2023 (8 March) reveal that 28% of housing professionals have recently experienced sexism in the workplace whilst a quarter (25%) say there are barriers preventing women from progressing in housing careers.

The new research has been released by WISH (Women in Social Housing) to highlight urgent progress needed to achieve gender equality in the housing sector.

Whilst 70% of those surveyed said that support from senior leaders had the most positive impact on women’s housing careers, the majority (58%) said that they had ‘not’ experienced gender equality in their housing career.

146 professionals working in housing associations, local authorities and the private sector were surveyed in WISH’s research, 95% of whom were women.

Respondents shared examples of being overlooked for roles, negative experiences after returning to work post-maternity leave and witnessing ‘men sliding into roles’.

More than a quarter (28%) have personally experienced sexism in the workplace in the last three years. Examples shared include; assumptions that they would take meeting minutes, comments on attire, emotional labour and being treated as ‘less capable’.

WISH’s new figures go on to reveal that 50% of professionals believe women have to work harder than their male counterparts to access the same career opportunities.

Women shared that career breaks e.g., after maternity leave, caring responsibilities, lack of diversity on boards, racism and unconscious bias were examples of barriers preventing women from progressing in housing careers.

Debra Constance is WISH’s co-founder and outgoing Chair. She said: “I believe we have made progress in our sector since I helped start WISH more than 20 years ago, but these figures make sobering reading. There is much more to do.

“No woman should feel unsafe, undermined or overlooked in the workplace. Each International Women’s Day we have conversations about these issues, but now we need to see real action to make these experiences a thing of the past.

“As I move on from my role at WISH, I remain optimistic. It’s been an honour to be involved almost from the start of WISH. I have made so many friends as a result of our networking and received the most amazing support, camaraderie, advice and love from many of the people I have met over the years. I celebrate them today.”

WISH’s research also looked at the impact of new flexible working practices. Four in ten (40%) believe that hybrid working models are having a negative impact on women’s careers with people quoting the importance of in person visibility, not being able to attend events and balancing work with other responsibilities such as care and childcare.

WISH’s new President, Tracey McEachran, added: “Unfortunately I’m not surprised to read our latest findings. Many of us have direct experience of inequity whilst working in our sector. Having been an active member of WISH for more than five years, these are issues we have been tackling for a long time.

“That being said, I am excited to be taking up the newly created role of President of WISH. We have an incredible community of members and lots of ambitious plans for events and joint working. It’s a privilege to be taking on the role as president and continuing such trailblazing work by Debra and the community.”

146 housing professionals took part in WISH’s annual survey. 43% are manager and supervisor level.  83% are white women, 50% have caring responsibilities, 68% are aged 35-54 and 10% are disabled.

The launch of WISH’s report also comes as Lucy Malarkey, WISH’s Managing Director has been announced as one of the Top 100 Women in social enterprise 2023 by the Euclid Network.

Commenting on the research, Lucy added; “We particularly need our male colleagues to do some reflection and show up for women they work alongside. It was interesting to see that the handful of men who responded to our research skipped the question about whether women have to work harder than their male counterparts to progress.  That is something to reflect upon.”

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