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So much for female solidarity: many women discriminate against members of their own gender, survey finds

Businesswomen in the City

Women face almost as much workplace discrimination from other women as they do from men, according to a new poll by serviced office provider Business Environment.

The study, based on an independent survey of 1,500 people, found that a fifth (20.1 per cent) of women would be reluctant to hire another woman if she was recently married, and more than a quarter (26.5 per cent) would think twice about employing a woman of child-bearing age.

More than a third (35.5 per cent) of women would be loath to hire a woman who appeared “too confident”. By contrast, only 32.6 of men say they would be put off by a confident female jobseeker.

Nazia Ahmed, Business Environment’s head of HR, said: “All forms of sexual discrimination are bad, but people sometimes overlook the fact that men aren’t the only offenders. Women can face all kinds of problems in the workplace, including under-representation in boardrooms and unequal pay compared to men – so it seems doubly sad that some women are compounding the problem by discriminating against members of their own gender.”

The women polled did feel that gender discrimination in the workplace was an issue: when polled, 42.6 per cent said there a lack of female senior managers in their business. More than a quarter (27.4 per cent) reported they had experienced gender discrimination at work.

Despite this, women were more likely than men to be reluctant to hire women who “dresses provocatively”, with 57.6 per cent of women marking candidates down, compared to just 40.2 per cent of men.

Nazia Ahmed said: “The solution to this unhappy situation is for companies to educate staff on attitudes in the workplace, and to ensure that everyone is included, not just the men. The message needs to be that a diverse and balanced workforce is an asset for any company, and people should be employed purely on ability. It is unfair or irresponsible to write good people off because of fears about maternity leave, or a misplaced distrust of ‘bolshy’ women.”