More than half of women are bullied at work– often by members of their own sex, according to the largest survey of its kind ever conducted in the United Kingdom.
The gender equality group, Opportunity Now, and PwC, an international professional services group, commissioned a survey that included interviews with nearly 23,000 women and more than 2,000 men.
The group recently issued a report, “Project 28-40,” which urges employers to recognize that “harassment and bullying still occur, despite well-meaning policies. Call it out, deal with perpetuators, and make it simple and straightforward to report.”
Helena Morrissey, chairperson of Opportunity Now, said the key to improve the workplace for women should be training excellent managers; this will achieve “much more than yet another initiative or programme.”
Fifty-two percent of the women who responded to the survey said they experienced bullying at work within the past three years. The rates were highest for Black British / African /Caribbean women (69%), women with disabilities (71%), bisexual (61%) and lesbian and gay women (55%).
Without being specific, the report states that the biggest enemy facing women in the office or other workplaces may be other women. The researchers conducted ten focus groups to gain insight from the survey findings. “Women often experience bullying by female colleagues and line managers, a point echoed by focus groups participants who thought female bullies felt threatened by potential and ability and so exploited their position or authority to undermine,” said the report.
More than one in four of the women surveyed said they had experienced overbearing supervision or misuse of authority, or were deliberately overloaded with work and subject to constant criticism. One in six of the women experienced exclusion and victimization or were intentionally blocked from promotion or training opportunities.
The researchers conclude that the data shows the extent to which workplaces are “dysfunctional, inefficient and fundamentally unjust” to women.
An additional 12% of women reported experiencing sexual harassment within the past three years. One in eight said they had been sexually harassed – defined as “unwelcome comments of a sexual nature.” This includes unwanted physical contact or leering, asking for sexual favors, displaying offensive material such as posters, or sending offensive emails or texts of a sexual nature.