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Twenty-five percent of female workers have experienced discrimination or unfair treatment in the workplace, and 17 percent said they have felt sexually harassed by a fellow employee or manager, according to a nationwide survey by CareerBuilder.com and Kelly Services, conducted by Harris Interactive. Of those who reported the incident to their employers, the majority said the offender was not held accountable.
The study, "Diversity in the Workplace," was designed to gauge the frequency, severity and occasion for perceptions of discrimination or unfair treatment and how diversity impacts hiring, compensation and career advancement. It focused on seven diverse segments including women, Asians, African Americans, Hispanics, workers with disabilities, mature workers age 50 or older and Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender workers.
"As the female labor force has steadily climbed over the past quarter-century, employers have come a considerable way in implementing fair and equal workplace practices," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.com. "Nevertheless, this study indicates that there is still much room for improvement. Nearly one-third of women said they feel discriminated against or treated unfairly based on their gender at least once a week."
Recommended reading: Breaking Through Bias: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work
"Despite the strides women and other diverse groups have made in the workplace, there is still a void at the top," said Nina Ramsey, senior vice president of Human Resources at Kelly Services. "Forty percent of all workers – both diverse and non-diverse – say there is an absence of diverse workers in management in their workplace. In order for an organization to evolve, their hiring, leadership development and succession practices need to evolve and include workers of all backgrounds."
Severity and Frequency of Discrimination or Unfair Treatment in the Workplace
Fourteen percent of female workers categorize the discrimination or unfair treatment they experienced at work as severe while 61 percent described it as moderate. Thirty-one percent of female workers said they experience discrimination or unfair treatment at least once a week. Twenty-six percent said once a month and 34 percent said it happens occasionally (defined as one to three times per year).
Discriminating or Unfair Behaviors
The most common incidents of discrimination or unfair treatment involved:
Pay and Career Advancement
Twenty-seven percent of female workers feel they are paid less than male co-workers who have the same skills and experience; 5 percent feel they are paid more; and 46 percent feel they are paid the same.
When asked about career advancement, 24 percent of female workers feel they have less opportunities compared to male co-workers who have the same skills and experiences; 3 percent feel they have more and 49 percent feel it's the same.
Reporting of Discrimination or Unfair Treatment
Unfortunately, much of the discrimination or unfair treatment goes unaddressed. Nearly half (49 percent) of female workers who experienced discrimination or unfair treatment said they did not report the incident. Seventy-two percent of female workers said they didn't think reporting the incident would make a difference while 46 percent feared being labeled as a trouble-maker and 34 percent feared losing their jobs.
Most of the female workers who reported discrimination or unfair treatment did so by bringing it to the attention of their direct supervisor (34 percent). Another 26 percent reported it to Human Resources while 18 percent reported it to someone in senior management. The majority of workers who reported the incident (61 percent) said they didn't think their claim was taken seriously and, in 69 percent of the cases, the offender was not held accountable. Only 3 percent of female workers took legal action against their employer.
Seventeen percent of women said they have felt sexually harassed at the office. Seven percent said the source of harassment was by a peer, 8 percent pointed to their supervisor and two percent pointed to senior management. Fifty-nine percent did not report the incident. Of those who did report the incident, one in four said it was never addressed by the authority figure they consulted at work and 27 percent said the offender was not held accountable. Only 9 percent said the offender was fired.
Diversity Hiring and Firing
Thirty-three percent of female workers said their gender works against them when applying for a job while 11 percent said it works in their favor. Fifty-six percent said their gender has no influence on whether they are hired.
In terms of involuntary termination, 12 percent of female workers said they believed they had been fired at some point in their career because of their gender. Twenty-one percent of all workers – both diverse and non-diverse – said they have witnessed discrimination or unfair treatment of a co-worker based on their diverse background.