Breaking the Silence: Women Over 45 Share Their Experiences of Sexism in the Workplace

CareerWallet Survey Exposes Alarming Levels of Sexist Behaviour Toward Women Over 45

Darryl Horn, Sunday, 26 March 2023 • 4 min read

Despite efforts to promote gender equality in the workplace, women over the age of 45 continue to experience discrimination, including sexism. The CareerWallet survey of over 1,000 participants highlights the extent of the issue, with more than half of women over the age of 45 having experienced some form of sexist behaviour at work. In this article we explore the types of sexism that women in mid-career face and the impact they have on career progression.

According to the CareerWallet survey, 53% of women over the age of 45 reported experiencing sexist behaviour at work. The survey also found that 44% of women in this age group felt that their age was a barrier to career progression. Of those who reported experiencing sexism, 68% said it was from male colleagues, 19% from female colleagues, and 13% from their bosses.

Types of Sexist Behaviour

The CareerWallet survey revealed a range of sexist behaviours experienced by women in mid-career. These behaviours can be overt or subtle, and include:

  1. Microaggressions - Small acts of discrimination or derogatory comments that are often unintentional, but still contribute to a negative work environment. For example, referring to women as "girls" or "sweetie," or making assumptions about their abilities based on their gender.

  2. Gender-based Stereotyping - Making assumptions about a woman's personality or work style based on her gender. For example, assuming that women are more emotional and less rational than men.

  3. Pay Discrimination - Women over the age of 45 are more likely to experience a gender pay gap, with women earning less than their male colleagues in the same role.

  4. Promotion Discrimination - Women in mid-career are also more likely to be overlooked for promotions or leadership roles, often due to gender biases and assumptions about their commitment to their careers.

Impact on Career Progression

Sexism and ageism in the workplace can have a significant impact on women's career progression. According to the CareerWallet survey, 44% of women over 45 felt that their age was a barrier to career progression. Women who experience sexist behaviour at work may feel demotivated, undervalued, and excluded from career opportunities. This can result in reduced job satisfaction, reduced commitment to their careers, and even leaving their jobs altogether.

Strategies for Addressing Sexism in the Workplace

Organisations can take steps to address sexism and ageism in the workplace, including:

  1. Education and Awareness - Providing training and education on unconscious bias, gender stereotypes, and microaggressions can help to create a more inclusive workplace culture.

  2. Accountability - Holding individuals accountable for sexist behaviour, whether through disciplinary action or training, can send a clear message that this behaviour is not acceptable.

  3. Inclusive Policies - Implementing policies and practices that promote gender equality, such as equal pay and flexible working arrangements, can help to create a more supportive work environment.

  4. Mentorship and Sponsorship - Providing mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for women in mid-career can help to address the lack of representation in leadership roles and provide opportunities for career progression.

The CareerWallet survey highlights the ongoing issue of sexism and ageism in the workplace, particularly for women over the age of 45. The types of sexism experienced by women in mid-career can have a significant impact on their career progression and job satisfaction. By addressing these issues through education, policies, and cultural reinforcement, employers can ensure that women are better supported in the workplace.

Breaking the Silence: Women Over 45 Share Their Experiences of Sexism in the Workplace
#WomenOver45 #SexismInWorkplace #Ageism #CareerWalletSurvey
This article was first published on 26/3/23.

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About the author


Darryl is a Chartered CIPD Member, business leader and operational manager with 30 years experience in on-the-ground and strategic HR, specialising in Human Resources Management, Employment Law, Employee Relations and Learning & Development.

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