29 June 2021

Researching Sexism, Diversity & Inclusion

If you were with me yesterday, you’ll recall that I re-published one of the first ever blogs that appeared on the Be-IT website, way back in 2014.  It dealt with the perennial problem of the lack of women in IT: a subject we have written about consistently (with both male and female colleagues publishing their thoughts) over the years.  Partly as a result of this, we commissioned a substantial piece of research in the summer of 2017 into the issue of sexism in IT.  As I noted yesterday, the results of this were widely reported in the media.  The key findings from 2017 were as follows:

  • Only 28% of IT bosses were female: 72% were men.
  • Over two-thirds of our female and male respondents worked in an environment where women made up less than one third of all staff.
  • Over half (54%) of female and 48% of male respondents work in an environment where women are less than a quarter of all staff.
  • Only 12% of women worked in an environment where females were in the majority. Fewer than 7% of men worked in an environment where women were in the majority.
  • Virtually half (49%) of our female respondents believed they had been discriminated against at some time in their careers because they are a woman.
  • Only 3% of men said they have seen a situation where a man was given a job for which they thought a woman candidate was better qualified.
  • In contrast 29% of our female respondents say they have seen this.
  • Only 3% of men said the workplace provides better facilities for men than women. 19% of women said this is the case.
  • Some 6% of men said they had seen a woman being overlooked for promotion. 45% of women said they had experienced this.
  • 33% of men reported that they have seen men being better paid than women. 48% of women said this was their experience.
  • 18% of women had taken further action to raise issues of discrimination
  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of women said that they, or a female colleague, had been treated in a way they did not like.
  • Over one third (35%) of women say they, or a female colleague, have been subject to unacceptable sexual harassment. In contrast, over 85% of men said they had not seen this happen.
  • 42% of women believe they were expected to put up with sexually explicit “banter” in the workplace. Conversely, 20% of male respondents said women have to accept such behaviour if they want to succeed.
  • 20% of men admit they, or any other male colleague, had discriminated against a woman during their career.
  • Just over one fifth (21%) of our female respondents said that they had seen men discriminated against by women, yet over one third (35%) of men said they had seen this happen.

In addition, there were a number of comments from female respondents about the way they felt they were treated, including this: “My work/decisions frequently checked with a man, even if he is junior or not in my area. It seems a penis is the qualification needed to check if I am correct.” From the male side, chauvinism was, in a few instances, very much the order of the day, as evidenced by this response from a male engineer, “Oh dear... Women simply need to take more interest in technical or engineering when they're growing up.”

Since we published these results, much has changed in the world of work, especially in the last year. While I am hopeful that at least some of the sexism we reported in 2017 has reduced, we now have a raft of other issues to deal with, almost all of which have the capacity to provoke strong, often contrasting emotions. The moment you step into the world of diversity, equity and inclusion, with its focus on issues such as transgenderism, critical race theory and intersectionality, then you’re not so much treading on eggshells as playing hopscotch in a minefield while wearing a blindfold.  However, that is the task we handed to our research company, and tomorrow they’ll explain how they (and we) are going to handle it.

Nikola Kelly, MD, Be-IT Projects, Be-IT Resourcing

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