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Workplace inequality remains rife – and it’s impacting on women’s mental health, Young Women’s Trust study shows

Despite momentum gathered for female inequality by the gender pay gap reporting and the #MeToo movement, the new Young Women's Trust survey shows a third of Britain's women aged 16 to 30 don't know how to report sexual harassment at work and a quarter would be reluctant to do so because they fear losing their job

Millions of women continue to lose out in the workplace despite campaigns for equality – and its affecting their mental health, according to a new study by the Young Women’s Trust.

The charity, which supports low-paid women aged 16 to 30 in England and Wales, said a third of the demographic don’t know how to report sexual harassment at work and a quarter would be reluctant to do so because they fear losing their job.

Despite the introduction of gender pay gap reporting, one in five young women say they are illegally paid less than their male colleagues for the same work.

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said: “Sadly, even a hundred years after the first women gaining the power to vote, it’s still a rich man’s world. Young women continue to lack workplace power and spending power.

“Our annual survey shows that young women’s treatment at work, pay and wellbeing are trailing far behind those of young men.

“If 2018 is to be a turning point for women’s equality and not just a footnote in history, then it’s clear that we need deeds, not just words.

“We need to be impatient for change: a lot has been achieved in the last 100 years but there’s still a long way to go.

“A concerted effort is needed from government and employers to provide young people with security and hope for the future, redress gender inequality at work and help manage the growing mental health crisis among young people.”

 

Numbers behind Young Women’s Trust study

The annual survey of 4,000 young people for the charity, carried out by Populus Data Solutions in July, led to the publication of the report It’s (Still) a Rich Man’s World: Inequality 100 years after Votes for Women.

As the title suggests, it comes a century after the Representation of the People Act was passed in the UK, which gave certain women aged over 30 the right to vote and led to further acts of equality.

And while the 2018 milestone has been heralded as the “year of the woman” and with the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault in full swing, the Young Women’s Trust said the demographic still face inequality in all aspects of work.

It claimed young women remain more likely to be on low pay, job insecurity has increased and debt levels have risen – with more than a quarter saying their financial situation has got worse in the past year.

Young Women's Trust

As a result, mental health concerns are “skyrocketing”, with four in ten saying they are worried about the state of their mind.

Using the sample to paint a picture for the 5.5 million women aged 18 to 30 in the UK, key figures include:

770,000 would describe their financial situation as “struggling”, while 40% of young women say it is a “real struggle” to make their cash last until the end of the month – compared to 29% of men

More than 800,000 (15%) have been sexually harassed at work and not reported it – while only 8% have experienced and reported it

More than one million (19%) have been paid less than a male colleague who has done the same or similar work, rising to 25% for those aged 25 to 30

A third of young women have experienced sex discrimination when working or looking for work, while 43% of young mums have experienced maternity discrimination

million feel they have no one to turn to

1.2 million believe they are depressed

1.7 million say their mental health has affected their ability to seek work

2.3 million feel worn down

 

Young Women’s Trust report shows young women want to shape their own futures

Sam Smethers, chief executive of gender equality charity the Fawcett Society, said the fact 50% of young women identify as feminists – compared to 29% of the female “baby boomer” generation – shows they “will not tolerate this level of inequality”.

“Harassment, discrimination, anxiety and debt are facts of life for far too many young women today,” she said.

Mental health

“Their lives should be better than their mothers’ but this survey suggests otherwise.

“We need to end the misogyny and harassment they experience and give them fair pay at work by ending pay and maternity discrimination.”

 

Government action needed to reduce sexual harassment, says CBI boss

The director-general of employers’ organisation the CBI believes government legislation could tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.

Carolyn Fairbairn wants Section 40 of the Equalities Act 2010 to be reinstated. It required businesses to protect their employees against harassment by third parties, such as clients and customers.

In a speech to the Fawcett Society today, Ms Fairbairn said: “It’s deplorable that some people in our society, most often women, are sexually harassed at work.

“This is not just a business problem. In the past year we’ve heard about it from Hollywood to Westminster.

CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn
CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn

“When it’s exposed, most men in business are as angry as most women. We must stamp out sexual harassment in all places of work.”

Ms Fairbairn highlighted the case of the Presidents Club scandal from earlier this year, in which allegations suggested hostesses at a charity dinner attended only by senior businessmen were told to wear highly revealing clothing, and were groped and propositioned by guests.

“What made the Presidents Club scandal so pernicious was that women were most at risk not from the company that hired them but from third parties – in this case, customers,” she added.

“Most employers believe they have a duty of care to protect staff from harassment by outsiders.

“But there is a small minority who don’t understand their full responsibilities. Many workers aren’t sure if they’re protected or how to enforce their rights.

“Before it was repealed, Section 40 of the Equalities Act made it clear that employers could be held accountable for third-party harassment.

“There’s a mistaken impression that the business community is against reinstating Section 40. This is not the case.

“Firms understand they are responsible and can be held accountable by their employees for harassment from third parties. This change in the law won’t prevent all cases of harassment.

“But if it prevents some, encourages victims to speak out and improves enforcement, then it’s worth it.”