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Polish Women Still Face Barriers in the Workplace Despite DE&I Efforts, Survey Finds

CAREERSPolish Women Still Face Barriers in the Workplace Despite DE&I Efforts, Survey Finds

The implementation of gender equality in companies’ strategies is ongoing. However, research indicates that there is still a long journey towards achieving full equality, eliminating the gender pay gap, and dispelling unconscious biases. Professionals are still encountering obstacles in their professional paths. According to a global Hays survey, discrimination and bias (38%), lack of flexibility (26%), and the gender pay gap (24%) were identified as the most significant obstacles.

International Women’s Day on 8th March provides many organizations an opportunity to take a closer look at the situation of the women they employ, their recruitment practices, and initiatives aimed at increasing their representation in senior management teams. However, from the perspective of female professionals, the measures implemented are often insufficient.

Last year’s Hays Poland survey titled “Women in the labor market 2023. DE&I policy in practice”, conducted in cooperation with the Center for Women’s and Diversity Studies at Leon Koźmiński Academy, once again revealed that the belief in equal opportunities for promotion and fair remuneration is not widespread in Poland. Only 39% of women and 69% of men believed that there is no dependency on gender for career advancement opportunities. Moreover, only 35% of women and 67% of men believed that all employees with similar qualifications are fairly compensated, regardless of gender. Despite these percentages slightly increasing compared to 2022, they remain far from ideal.

PREJUDICE AND LACK OF FLEXIBILITY AS THE BIGGEST BARRIERS

A Hays survey conducted on LinkedIn in February among nearly 4.5 thousand respondents shows that employees still perceive obstacles that hinder women’s professional development. Discrimination and bias (38%) and inflexible working rules (26%) were the highest reported. The gender pay gap and unfair remuneration practices (24%), as well as a lack of mentoring and development support (12%), were also identified as barriers.

Aleksandra Tyszkiewicz, an executive director at Hays for the Central and Eastern Europe region, notes that despite significant progress in promoting equal opportunities for women and men in the labor market, stereotypes and harmful beliefs still exist. Prejudices against professional women are often not expressed directly, and bias can influence decisions made about hiring and promotion.

MORE THAN HALF OF POLISH WOMEN HAVE ENCOUNTERED CAREER OBSTACLES DUE TO THEIR GENDER

Similar conclusions are drawn from Hays’ report “Women in the labour market 2023. DE&I policy in practice”. According to the study, 57% of Polish women have experienced gender-based obstacles in their careers. These challenges most commonly include favouritism towards the opposite sex, employment or promotion decisions based on stereotypes, lack of trust in qualifications, and assumptions about their availability.

The perception of women through the lens of potential motherhood presents one of the major challenges professional women face. Possessing children or potential plans related to them are often considered in decisions about employment or promotion.

The traditional cultural patterns regarding child care and household obligations as being primarily women’s responsibilities persist. Mothers more frequently take sick leave when their child is ill, and they are the only parents who take parental leave. This is also dictated by economic factors. Women statistically earn less than men due to the gender pay gap and less frequent occupancy of high-level positions. This leads to women being doubly disadvantaged – facing professional development obstacles like prejudice and glass ceilings, but also bearing the burden of child care as it is financially the most viable option for the family.

ACTIONS THAT MATTER

Employers preparing to create open and fair organisations are confronted with major hurdles. One of the measures taken is the implementation of diversity, equality, and inclusion (DE&I) policies. Such strategies already exist in every third organisation operating in Poland, according to Hays. The focus is placed on gender balance within these strategies.

Companies’ initiatives related to DE&I often take the form of initiatives supporting underrepresented groups in the workplace and promoting allyship, systematic solutions such as gender parity, transparent compensation, and clear career paths. From responses in the Hays survey, employers also conduct training on unconscious bias, and develop practical guidelines and internal procedures, e.g., on inclusive recruitment.

Aleksandra Tyszkiewicz sums up: “Employers positively comment on the impact of DE&I policies on employees and the entire company. The culture and reputation of the organisation benefit the most from the implementation of such solutions. Employers also acknowledge that employee engagement increases as they have greater certainty that their future career will be determined exclusively by their skills and work results. In other words – even though such a code of good practice does not solve all problems, it is appreciated. Employees feel that it is an important step towards full equality of opportunities in the labor market.”

Sources: “Women in the labor market 2023. DE&I policy in practice” report, June 2023. Hays survey, LinkedIn, February 2024.

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