‘It’s still real’ New report finds staggering 91% of UK businesses experience sexism

Ian Blackford squirms over sexism question after Sunak attack

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Last week, the Government published its gender pay gap report on UK businesses, finding women in the UK were paid just 90p for every £1 earned by a man. Furthermore, a study of over 800 female entrepreneurs by business insurance company SimplyBusiness found 91 percent said gender bias and inequality is prevalent in business, while a third described it as “widespread” or “severe”.

Business women have argued one way to prevent sexism is to promote more positive female role models.

However, they added that the prevalence of “boys’ clubs” in businesses holds women back from reaching higher positions, with accusations of cronyism in the Government running the risk of “normalising” this practice.

Sarina Stokes, head of operations at printing firm BFG Print Ltd, says she lacks confidence in giving herself the title of business owner – because “most people associate business ownership as a male-dominated area.”

She told Express.co.uk: “I’ve had comments like: ‘if you dyed your hair darker, if you wore glasses, you’d be taken more seriously.’ Or, ‘are you just here to make the room look pretty?’”

Asked for the biggest thing that held her back from achieving her goals, Ms Stokes said: “In general, it would be that there’s a lot of boys clubs.

“A lot of companies don’t have this issue, not everyone is like this.

“But you do get this situation where it’s like, the men play golf together, they’re mates, so they’re the ones who are hired or promoted.”

Ms Stokes has described personal experiences in her career of feeling overlooked for management roles by men who are friends.

Bea Montoya, chief operating officer at insurance firm Simply Business, confirmed Ms Stokes’ experience was not unusual, telling Express.co.uk: “From what we’ve seen, that is absolutely happening. It’s still real.

“Our study found that over 90 percent of female entrepreneurs have experienced sexism. That’s just heartbreaking.

“The reality is that many women are overlooked by investors and data has told us that’s also the case for networking opportunities.

“I don’t think you’ll be able to talk to any senior businesswomen who haven’t experienced boys’ clubs.”

Both women argued promoting positive role models was a great way to combat this issue, with Ms Montaya saying: “Being able to see someone that you identify with, doing the things that you want to do just gives you a lot more confidence.”

Discussing the widespread nature of “boys’ club” culture, Ms Stokes added that the Government runs the risk of making sexist nepotism “normalised” following accusations that it gave PPE contracts worth millions to friends of Tory ministers.

A 2019 study of Government corruption published by Parliamentary Affairs found that recruiting friends into political office tends to primarily benefit men.

Ms Stokes claimed: “The nepotism has become so normalised, because it’s in full view of the country.

“I’ve always voted Conservative because I believe in enterprise and entrepreneurship.

“But by giving contracts to their mates this Government has done everything it can to totally destroy the underbelly of British business.”

The Government was accused of “cronyism” during the Covid pandemic as investigations looked into allegations of ministers providing PPE deals to political contacts instead of following due process.

However, Ms Montoya was keen to point out that despite widespread issues, businesses are improving, with sessions on sexism at SimplyBusiness attended by both men and women.

She said: “It’s really encouraging. It has to be something that we all work on.”

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