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Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, has today published analysis of polling by Opinium on public attitudes towards workplace opportunities, aspirations and equality.

Bright Blue and Opinium’s polling suggests that there are still differences in attitudes towards the world of work between men and women. The polling showed:

  • Almost half (48%) of working-aged men are optimistic about their future career prospects compared to 41% of working-aged women. In fact, this gender difference in optimism was more pronounced among younger people: 68% of men aged 18-34 are optimistic about their future career prospects compared to 53% of women aged 18-34.
  • Almost half (48%) of working-aged men agree that their professional identity is a significant part of their personal identity compared to 43% of working-aged women.
  • Men are divided as to whether gender plays a role in determining job suitability. 48% agreed that some jobs are better suited to either men or women, while 43% said that gender does not determine whether someone is more capable of doing a job. By contrast, only a third of women believe some jobs are better suited to either men or women, compared to a majority (58%) that believe gender does not determine whether someone is more capable of doing a job.
  • A slight majority (54%) of men believe that being a man or women doesn’t put you at a disadvantage in the modern workplace. 34% of men say being a woman generally puts you at a bigger disadvantage, and 12% indicate that being a man does. Contrastingly, women are split on whether being a woman generally puts you at a disadvantage in the modern labour market: 48% say neither gender, whereas 48% report being a woman. Only 4% of women say men are generally at a disadvantage.

Bright Blue and Opinium’s polling also suggests that gender differences in attitudes towards the world of work are not significantly changing among younger people.

  • More women aged 18-34 (50%) than those aged 35-54 (42%) believe that professional identity is a significant part of their personal identity. However, the gap between the proportion of men aged 18-34 (61%) and women aged 18-34 (50%) who believe their professional identity is part of their personal identity is wider than other age group.
  • Slightly fewer men aged 18-34 (67%) than those aged 35-54 (70%) are happy with having a female boss. However, slightly more women aged 18-34 (71%) are happy with having a female boss than those aged 35-54 (67%).
  • Only 35% of men aged 18-34 believe gender does not determine whether someone is more capable of doing a job, compared to 44% of men aged 35-54. Roughly the same proportion of women aged 18-34 (58%) believe gender is irrelevant in determining whether someone is more capable of doing a job as women aged 35-54 (59%).
  • Nearly a fifth (18%) of men aged 18-34 believe men are generally at the biggest disadvantage in the modern workplace compared to 12% of men aged 35-54 and 7% of men aged 55+. In contrast, a majority (53%) of women aged 18-34 believe women are generally at the biggest disadvantage in the modern workplace, compared to 47% of women aged 35-54 and 46% of women aged 55+.

Commenting Ryan Shorthouse, Director at Bright Blue, says:

“There are still some differences in attitudes between men and women towards the importance of, opportunities in, and equality at work.

Although opportunities for women in the workplace have significantly improved in recent decades, shifts in policy and culture are still necessary to truly ensure that gender becomes almost irrelevant to how people view themselves and others in the world of work”.

Bright Blue has recommended the following policies in its recent report Britain breaking barriers.

  • All advertised jobs in the civil service and government agencies, including senior civil service roles, should have gender-blind recruitment practices.
  • The Government should remove the requirements for employees to have worked for 26 continuous weeks with their current employer before having the right to request flexible working. Instead, when someone is offered a job, they should have the right to request flexible working.
  • The Government should lower the amount higher-earning working mothers can receive from the state through Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) by lowering the cap on 90% of previous earnings for the first six weeks of SMP. Any money saved by the lowering of the cap should be used to increase the base rate (paid after six weeks) of SMP, and, as a consequence, any statutory pay available to fathers.
  • All new parents should be offered government-backed, income-contingent childcare loans to pay for formal childcare when their children are under the age of five.