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More visible female role models could help improve workplace equality

Published 25/10/2016

A poll found more than two in five young women currently believe that their gender will hold them back in their career
A poll found more than two in five young women currently believe that their gender will hold them back in their career

Theresa May's appointment as the UK's second female prime minister could help to improve equality in the workplace, a poll suggests.

More than two in five young women currently believe that their gender will hold them back in their career, with a similar proportion saying they think they would be paid less than a man doing the same job as them.

But there are signs of optimism, with 43% saying they believe that a woman holding the position of prime minister can help to improve gender diversity in business - defined as a firm having an equal number of men and women.

Among the young men questioned, just over a third (35%) thought that a female country leader would help to improve this situation.

The poll commissioned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), which spoke to girls and women aged 13 to 22, found that 42% thought they would be paid less than a man doing the same job because of their gender, with 4% saying they would be paid more. Around 41% said that being a woman would have a negative impact on their success in the workplace.

In comparison, just 3% of the males polled thought they would be paid less than a woman doing the same job, while a fifth (20%) believed they would be paid more. Some 4% thought their gender would be a negative influence on their career.

The survey also found that 40% of young women and 39% of their male peers do not believe that the property, building and construction industry is very diverse.

Rics president Amanda Clack said: "Speaking as a woman in construction, I can say with confidence that this is not just a job for boys. However, the need for diversity at the very top is clear. As now the president of Rics, and someone who happens to be female, I reflect back on when I first entered the profession, there were no strong female role models. Yet, according to our survey, a quarter of young women believe they will do better under the leadership of a female CEO and they want to see visible female role models."

She added: "With a female prime minister in the UK and a woman in the running for the US presidency, we are seeing great female role models at the very highest level - with the potential impact that can have on workplace diversity apparent."

Rics chief executive Sean Tompkins said: " This survey reveals that the construction and property industries are still suffering from a reputational image crisis. We need to do more to encourage young women into these key sectors and smash the clear perception of a glass ceiling."

:: The YouGov poll questioned 1,586 13 to 22-year-olds in Britain from October 14-19.

A Government spokeswoman said no girl should feel held back because of her gender and that ministers were working with employers to tackle barriers faced by women in the workplace.

She added: "We now have the lowest gender pay gap on record but we're committed to eliminating it in a generation - that's why we're taking action by requiring employers to publish their gender pay and bonus gaps for the first time ever from April next year."

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