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What’s up with inequality in the workplace? 45 sobering stats

The world of work isn’t an equal playing field. But whether because of gender, age, race, or neuro differences, the fallout of inequality in the workplace is everyone’s business. Ready to see the big picture?

Gender inequality at work: held back and harassed

It’s been over half a century since pay discrimination became illegal in the U.S. And yet women still get paid less than men on average. 

A glaring pay gap isn’t even the worst of it though. Sexual harassment and lack of promotional opportunities are still shocking realities across most sectors.

1.

Despite making up almost half of the U.S. workforce, women make up a tiny 2.6% of Fortune Global 500 companies CEOs — all of them white. 

2.

Women make up 47% of support staff numbers, but by senior management and executive levels, that drops to under 30%. This 2020 report evidences how female representation dramatically decreases the higher you look up the corporate ladder.

3.

At least one-quarter of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Note that that is “at least” — the number could be as high as 85% in some instances. And sexual harassment is more likely to be cited as an issue in a male-dominated sector.

4.

64% of women in law firms had experienced sexual harassment at work, according to a survey by Legal Week.

5.

The UK’s gender pay gap still sits at 17.3%, which means women get paid on average 17 pence per hour less than men. In the U.S, that climbs to 18 cents less for every hour worked. And in some sectors, and especially at senior levels, the pay gap is wider. 

6.

Female physicians and surgeons are paid $19 billion less each year than their male colleagues.

7.

In the UK advertising industry, a female marketing director makes £9,300 ($12,800) less each year than a man in the same role.

8.

Men in the UK earn 10% more than women within 15 months after graduating. This indicates that the gender pay gap takes hold before a career’s even started. And, in the U.S, this gender inequality can be traced back even earlier.

9.

Only 16% of women graduating with a ‘First’ degree earn over £30,000 ($41,258) within 15 months, compared with 28% of men with the very same grades.

10.

Men will go on to supervise more individuals in the workplace than women — even when those women out-performed them academically in high school.

11.

For every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women will experience the same, according to McKinsey. And it’s not like women ask less, either. Despite putting themselves up for promotion and negotiating salaries at the same rates as men, 2019 was the sixth year in a row that women were held back as could-be managers.

12.

1 in 5 women said they were often the only woman, or one of the only women, in the room at work. This is twice as common (40%) for senior-level women and women in technical roles.

13.

20.2 million women in the US risk losing their jobs to automation, compared to 14.4 million men. And female job losses as a result of the COVID pandemic were 1.8 times greater than among men.

14.

Three-quarters of British working mums have faced discrimination for having children. Worse still, only 1 in 4 have spoken to their employer about the bias.

15.

23% of women asked agreed that they’d had their professional competency doubted as a result of their gender, versus just 6% of men. Disappointingly, it’s not just men who are discriminating against women — it’s other women, too! Pew’s study found that both genders were more likely to hire men over women.

Early talent, ageism, and the aging workforce

Both men and women have a narrow window of opportunity for bias-free professional development. Discrimination exists for early talent — that is, those fresh out of university — and for older workers, too.

16.

58% of workers in their fifties or older have noticed age bias. That’s incredible considering 40-45 years old is the median employee age for most sectors and industries.

17.

The tech industry isn’t exactly known for its diversity and inclusion, but this is shocking: 41% of IT and tech workers have experienced age discrimination (compared to the average 29% for all sectors). The age at which tech employees start to suffer bias? 29 years old.

18.

91% of those who notice age bias consider it a “common” issue. Perhaps they don’t know how to call it out?

19.

Almost a third of full-time US employees aged 45+ believe if they lose their job within the next year, it will be due to their age.

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20.

UK workers in their 50s are twice as likely to be made redundant than those in their 40s. This suggests that older workers have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

21.

American employers paid $810.4 million to settle age discrimination charges between 2010 and 2018 (excluding litigation). And this figure is predicted to increase, with close to 25% of the nation’s workforce expected to be age 55 and older by 2024. 

22.

Age discrimination isn’t illegal in the US if the current or potential employee is under 40. Yep… We can’t believe it either.

23.

Labeling candidates 30 years old and younger as “unpredictable” and saying they “don’t know how to work” is a frequent issue in recruitment — and a shocking illustration of misguided inequality in the workplace.

Race in the workplace — we’re still not doing enough

It’s no wonder ethnic diversity programs are a hot topic amongst HR professionals. The current status quo around recruiting, supporting, and promoting people of color in the workplace leaves a lot to be desired.

24.

Over 60% of Americans believe racial inequality at work needs to be addressed, according to a 2020 survey.

25.

Just 31% of Black people say they have access to senior management at work, compared to 44% of white people.  

26.

Almost 75% of hotel baggage porters, bellhops, and concierges are Black, African American, Asian, Hispanic, or Latino. This is a serious overrepresentation of people of color in some of the lowest-paying agricultural, domestic, and service vocations.

27.

Women of color represent almost half of the low-wage workforce. And within that cohort, 18% identify as Black.

28.

Black workers with degrees earn 23.1% less than white workers in the U.K.

29.

Black college grads are 28% more likely to be in a job that doesn’t require a college degree proof that people of color are far more likely to be under-employed.

30.

Just 3.2% of Fortune 500 companies openly share ‘complete’ race and gender workforce demographics. That is, they publicize the data by job category and management level.

31.

Discrimination suits based on race are some of the most commonly filed cases, yet are some of the least successful too. Just 15% of reports for racially-biased behavior results in compensation, or other relief, for the victim in question.

Lack of support for, and understanding around, neurodiversity in the workplace

The neurodiverse community represents a wealth of professional potential, particularly in areas like mathematics, analysis, and technology/computing. And yet, people with dyslexia and autism are worryingly un- or under-employed. 

32.

The unemployment rate for early-20-year olds Americans with a learning disability is 95%. This represents a significant waste in early talent and the advantages they can bring to the workplace. 

33.

Only 1 in 10 UK organizations say that neurodiversity is accommodated for in their people management practices — that’s despite an estimated 10% of the population being neurodiverse.

34.

Close to one-third of UK workers acknowledge that their employers fail to offer additional support for colleagues with neurodevelopmental disorders.

35.

1% of US corporate managers have dyslexia. Compare that to the 5-15% of Americans diagnosed with dyslexia, and we have a serious issue of underrepresentation on our hands.

36.

$1,006 — that’s how much it costs, on average, to make a workplace dyslexia-friendly. And that figure is far more cost-effective than replacing an employee (£4,000 or $5,300 on average). So why aren’t companies doing more to include neurodiversity?

37.

When surveyed, 60% of adults with ADHD said they’d lost or changed a job and attributed the job loss to their ADHD symptoms.

38.

Without the “minor adjustments” that make a workplace more inclusive for individuals with ADHD, job-hopping and/or lack of security is higher. More than 36% of those with ADHD have had 4+ jobs in the past 10 years; 6.5% have had 10+ jobs within the last decade.

39.

Over half (52%) of neurodivergent people claimed to have experienced discrimination during interview or selection processes, according to a 2018 report. 

40.

43% of neurodivergent people felt discouraged from applying to a job because of the application process. What a waste of talent!

41.

In the US, adults with ADHD are 18x more likely to be disciplined at work for perceived “behavior problems”. And adults with ADHD are 60% more likely to lose their jobs.

42.

43% of autistic adults have left, or lost, a job because of their autism.

43.

Just 16% of autistic adults are in full-time, paid employment in the UK. While an overwhelming 77% of unemployed autistic adults who want to work, can’t secure a role.

44.

In the U.S, less than half of autistic adults are employed. And 30% of those without employment say they were simply unable to find a job.

45.

Barely 2% of people with dyslexia enrolled in undergraduate programs in the U.S. complete the requisite 4 years of study. Proof, once again, that inequality in the workplace begins before an employee signs their first contract.

It’s time to end workplace inequality for good

To what extent is Diversity and Inclusion a priority in your organization? 

Yes, we’ve described a shocking state of play in the 45 statistics above. But we all have the same opportunity — and responsibility — to fight for real and effectual change. It’s time to stand up to discrimination and put equitable actions into place. 


Headstart can help. Keep browsing our frequently-updated insights hub for more information and advice around equitable and inclusive team building. And book a demo of our innovative, diversity-boosting recruitment platform today.

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