‘Old boys’ bullying club’ means 31% of STEM women plan to quit
Human Resources

‘Old boys’ bullying club’ means 31% of STEM women plan to quit

The 2015 Survey of Women in the STEM Professions [PDF] conducted by Professionals Australia reveals yet more negative findings about the industry. A lot of this hinges on the difficulties of balancing motherhood with a career – which is a life challenge to be expected – but more worryingly, a large percentage reported an old boys club of casual bullying. 

“Disturbingly” the report stated, a high volume of respondents had experienced discrimination (52%), sexual harassment (26%) and bullying (42%). Of those, only 23%, 13% and 39% respectively had sought advice on how to deal with the matter. The research also highlighted an old boys’ club that made it more difficult for women to progress and left them side-lined in favour of their male counterparts.

Nearly a third (31%) of the 432 women polled said they do not to expect to be working in their profession in five years due to lack of advancement, the need for a better life balance or the need for change or to gain experience. Needless to say they also tended to be less well paid, were more likely to work part time, and less likely to hold senior roles.

Now, it is easy to draw shrill conclusions from surveys of this nature. There is a big media trend towards highlighting how disadvantaged women are – a fact which is far less true in the west than other parts of the world – and can easily degenerate into pointless man bashing.  

Most research questions are also somewhat rigged to achieve a specific outcome… and as anything around female disadvantage does very well from a PR perspective, cynically speaking, it is always a good angle to take. It is also inevitable that the challenge of child-rearing will take a toll on one of the parents’ careers and this is generally a choice people make. Those real career obsessives are a breed apart and absolutely nothing stops them from clambering up that ladder.

Yet this said, anyone who has ever worked anywhere will know that casual sexism is rife. Just the words “hot” and “mumsy” say it all. And the manipulative perma-tanned lady who will shout about football round the office may well be better at playing this particular system than her quieter more talented sister. There are a worrying number of people promoted on no merit whatsoever – everywhere – and unfortunately gender is another thing which gets chucked into the mix. 

The one statistic that did strike me as particularly pertinent though, was that 41% of all respondents agreed that in their “workplace, advice or information of a technical nature was less likely to be listened to if provided by a woman than a man”. Now this might be a perception issue, of course, but the more people doubt they’ll be listened to, the more rubbish they tend to be at delivering. And that can’t be good for anyone’s career. 


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