More young women facing discrimination at work

Increasing numbers of young women are being discriminated against at work according to new research from the charity Young Women’s Trust, with half saying that they had faced some sort of discrimination, compared to just over two fifths last year.

Worryingly, over a third (34%) of HR decision makers confirmed that they were also aware of instances of young women being discriminated against in the past year. The same number agreed that sexist behaviour still exists within their organisation. 

In the charity’s latest annual survey, which spoke to 4,000 young women, 1,000 young men and nearly 1,000 HR decision makers, 23% of young women said that they are being paid less than their male peers even for the same work, despite this being illegal. They also said that when instances of discrimination do occur, they feel less able to challenge or report it (25%) compared to young men (17%).    

Employers still have a long way to go to support young women and rid workplaces of outdated and discriminatory views. The survey found that almost three in ten (28%) HR decision makers agreed that it is harder for women to progress in their organisation than men. Furthermore, 15% agreed that men are better suited to senior management jobs than women, and 19% said that they would be reluctant to hire a woman who they thought might go on to start a family. Only 13% of HR professionals said the same for a man. 

The survey also showed the progression and job security is a big cause of concern: 

  • Almost half of young women are worried about not having enough opportunities to progress – a small increase on last year (47%).  
  • Over a third of young women are worried about job security, up from 33% last year.  
  • Young women are more likely than young men to have been offered a zero hours contract – 42% compared to 33%. 

Discrimination is just one of the factors that means young women earn £4000 less than young men each year, alongside young women being funnelled into lower paid jobs and working fewer hours due to taking on more responsibilities at home. This income gap kicks in right at the start of working life and it’s preventing young women from having an equal chance to thrive and reach their potential.   

Low pay is a huge worry for young women with over half of young women saying their financial situation was uncomfortable compared to 40% of young men. Over half of young women are worried about how much their job pays, while 23% have been paid less than the minimum wage they were entitled to, compared to 20% of young men. 

Racially minoritised young women face discrimination on multiple levels, and as a result are much more likely to be worried about how much their job pays (60% compared to an average of 55%), job security (46% compared to 36% on average) and lacking opportunities to progress (57% compared to 49%).  

The charity has worked with young women to create a manifesto for an equal world of work, and is calling for government and employers to step in and make changes that will level the playing field by: 

  • Ensuring fair and equal pay with salary transparency; action to tackle pay gaps; and a fairer labour market which values the work that typically women choose to do. 
  • Removing unfair barriers to work with more flexible working; inclusive recruitment processes; improved benefits and employment support; and a childcare system that works. 
  • Support young women to progress with clear pathways and internal schemes and training. 
  • Better job security with a limit on zero hours contracts and a right to predictable hours. 
  • End discrimination for good through better reporting processes, more accountability for employers and improved support for people experiencing discrimination.  

Claire Reindorp, Chief Executive at Young Women’s Trust said: “Just a couple of months ago we reported on the rising cost of living having a disproportionate impact on young women’s lives – and these latest figures show why that’s happening, with deep-rooted and widespread discrimination driving income inequality.  

“We know it’s hard for young women to get the jobs that they want because of barriers such as a lack of flexible working and affordable childcare, but then when they do enter the workplace, discrimination and a lack of support to progress creates this broken rung on the career ladder. It’s a travesty that in 2023 young women still aren’t being given the same chances in life as young men.  

“There’s so much more than politicians and employers can do to make a difference and – and much of it is not that hard. Let’s stop living in the dark ages and realise the true potential that young women can bring to society and our economy. We’ve got an entire workforce’s talents that could be unlocked.”

You can read the full report here.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

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