The Top Five Issues Women Face at Work

by Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 22 October 2015 13:45 GMT
Thomson Reuters Foundation, with support of The Rockefeller Foundation, released global poll assessing main issues.

There are plenty of statistics tracking the percentage of women in the workforce, their qualifications and their salaries. But the data doesn’t show us the whole picture. It doesn’t assess how women feel, how they fare in their day-to-day business, the challenges they encounter. And that is why the Thomson Reuters Foundation, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, embarked on a global task, asking more than 9,500 women across the G20 to identify the top five issues faced at work.

The findings are compelling: according to the research, work-life balance is the issue that concerns women the most. This is followed by equal pay, harassment, access to equal career opportunities and the impact of family life on career prospects.The global report reveals that four in every 10 women see the gender pay gap as a key issue, with women in seven nations listing this discrepancy as their major concern. Interestingly, France, Germany and the United States lead the table despite recent World Economic Forum data indicating these economies have, in fact, some of the narrowest pay gaps among G20 nations. Women in Britain, Australia, Brazil, and Canada also ranked the gender pay gap as their biggest workplace worry, while in China women expressed the least concern.

Harassment in the workplace also emerges as one of the five top critical issues. Nearly one third of women interviewed admit to having experienced harassment, although more than 60% do not report it. Indian women are the most likely to speak up (53%), a clear change of attitude since the fatal attack of a female student on a bus in Delhi in 2012.

“The poll shows that when women see a real possibility for change, they seize it”, said Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO Monique Villa to the BBC World Service. “India is the perfect example. Women are finding the courage to speak up and demand fairer treatment, on the contrary, in countries where expectations are low, women tend to remain silent, as they perceive inequality as part of the status quo. That is why it’s so important to go beyond the hard data and bring women’s perception into the picture. This poll does precisely that,” she added.

“When it comes to career opportunities, can you see a discrepancy as well?” asked CNN’s Alison Kosik. “Well, half of the women at work in the G20 feel that men have more career opportunities than women,” Monique Villa said.  “What is very important is the perception you have of things and the possibility of change,” she added.

Almost half of the women polled are optimistic about the prospects of having a child and a career. Women in emerging countries led by Brazil - where maternity laws are generous and family ties are close - are the most confident. By contrast, women in some of the richest countries - Germany, the UK and France - are least confident and feel having a family might wreck their careers.

Finally, the poll uncovers some generational trends. Millennials, or women under the age of 30, are more optimistic. “The situation is much better today than it was 35 years ago – noted Monique - but we really should look at the facts on the ground now and then ask the same questions in ten years from now.”

News of the poll reached 1 billion people globally and left 2 million impressions on Twitter. Major global outlets covering the story included BBC World News, CNN International, Arise TV,Huffington Post, Economic Times of India, SABC (South Africa), The Sunday Times (South Africa), Stabroek News (South Africa) Radio Canada International, Radio France Internationale, Deutsche Welle, Corriere della Sera (Italy), Informazione (Italy), Livemint, Business Insider, Reuters, Christian Science Monitor, Deccan Herald, Himalayan Times, Financial Express, Malay Mail, Malaysian Insider, NDTV, Oman Observer, Silicon India, Bangladesh Daily Star, Zaman, Arab Times (Kuwait),Brunei Times,The Free Press Journal, The NationPakistan, Zambia News & Fast Company

An opinion piece on the poll authored by Monique Villa and President of The Rockefeller Foundation, Judith Rodin, also ran on the Huffington Post.

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