1 in 5 women have felt sexually discriminated at work

A third of working women have experienced discrimination and harassment in the workplace, according to research.

They’ve been spoken over or had opinions dismissed in meetings, received unwelcome comments on their appearance or clothing and been called “woman” and “clever girl”.

The poll of 2,000 working women revealed many have had their work and achievements hijacked by male colleagues or have experienced unwanted touching, brushing or stroking from other members of their team.

One woman lost her job after refusing a marriage proposal from her line manager while another was frequently ordered to make her male colleagues their drinks.

Another reported a male employee was taken on to do the same job as her – and later discovered he was being paid £1,000 more.

And a female shop worker ended up getting unwanted texts from a security guard who went into the manager’s office and took her mobile phone number from personnel records.

Georgina Calvert-Lee, Senior Litigation Counsel at law firm McAllister Olivarius, which commissioned the research to understand better what women are facing in the workplace, said: “It’s sad to hear that these kinds of things continue and are so widespread. It confirms what our clients tell us about their own experiences.

“We’re sure many women will feel as though they are the only ones having to deal with situations like this.

“But we’re certain there will be women out there who don’t actually realise they’re experiencing sexual discrimination or harassment.

“Sometimes it can feel a bit daunting speaking up; especially if you’re afraid of losing your job for standing your ground.

“But the only way these situations are going to be solved is by making others aware of it and not suffering in silence.”

Of the 42 per cent of women who have ever taken maternity leave, one in 10 said they felt discriminated against when they returned to work.

One mum explained that once she had returned to work after maternity leave her job had ‘disappeared’, and she was given menial tasks which weren’t enough to fill the day.

Another respondent said her manager had told her there was no point in promoting young female staff as “they all leave on maternity anyway”.


1. Been spoken over of had their opinion dismissed in meetings
2. Received unwelcome comments on appearance or clothes
3. Been called “woman”, “clever girl” or other dismissive terms
4. Been asked to make tea or run errands more than male colleagues
5. Felt unable to complain about being treated unprofessionally for fear of being accused of being oversensitive
6. Been referred to as ‘bossy’ due to instructing another member of staff
7. Been judged / commented on for their sexual attractiveness
8. Having credit for their work taken by male colleagues
9. Been assumed to be the assistant / PA or lower ranking member of staff
10. Experienced unwanted touching, brushing or stroking from other colleagues

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