The Landscape for Women in the Workplace

A new survey of more than 700 female professionals across a variety of industries shed light on the impact of sexual harassment and gender bias on women in the workplace.

According to the Korn Ferry research, 45 percent of respondents said they had been sexually or verbally harassed at work. Despite that figure, only 7 percent of women said sexual harassment was the biggest issue facing women in the workplace. Instead, 42 percent cited the gender pay gap. Respondents were asked to compare their salaries to those of men in similar roles, and just 1 percent of the women surveyed said they make more than their male counterparts; 42 percent responded that they make 10 to 20 percent less.

When it came to other issues in the workplace, about 26 percent of women said gender discrimination is a primary obstacle, and 25 percent pointed to the so-called “glass ceiling.”

About 40 percent of participants believed they had been passed over for a promotion or other opportunity at work because of their sex. Among the challenges facing women in leadership positions in the workplace, respondents said, being treated equally was chief, followed by garnering respect from peers.

In a blog post about the new report, Kristin Mannion, Korn Ferry vice chair in the Board and CEO Services practice, noted that inequality is often subtle in many organizations–such as at those that ask women to take on additional duties without an elevation in pay or title. Such structures feed into gender stereotypes, Mannion said.

“We are taught that it is our responsibility [as women] that we need to take care of people; we’re the nurturers,” Mannion said, advising female professionals to be aware of such tendencies–and to be vocal about asking for requisite resources, including added compensation, when taking on more responsibility.

The research highlights the need for companies to address how their policies and culture impact current employees, as well as their ability to recruit new talent. Another recent study found that nearly 60 percent of women would be discouraged from applying to a company where an employee had alleged sexual harassment.

“The survey underscores the continued need for action around the important issues and challenges facing women in the workplace,” said Jane Stevenson, global leader for CEO succession and vice chair of Korn Ferry. “My best advice for women in the workplace is to be confident and passionate. If you want the job, be the job before you even receive the promotion.”

The women themselves also offered words of advice, with 44 percent of participants saying that developing a strong network is one of the best ways for women to succeed professionally.


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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected]