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Third of bosses ‘reluctant to hire women in case they have children’

Nearly one in three bosses would reject a female candidate because they fear she might start a family, research published today has found.

The controversial survey of 501 UK managers also discovered one in four would turn away a woman because she was a single parent, 29 per cent because she had young children and 28 per cent because she was recently engaged or married.

Almost two in five (37 per cent) admitted they would advertise roles as available to men only if the law allowed them, while a similar proportion (40 per cent) said they thought men were more dedicated to their jobs.

“A huge shift in attitudes still ne to take place before women feel they are not penalised for wanting both a career and children,” said Remziye Ozcan, employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, which carried out the research. “Men are never asked to choose between the two. 

“This discrimination also affects women generally – those who don’t plan to have children or already have children – as it is about attitudes and stereotypes applied to women generally.”

The law firm’s survey also revealed one in seven (14 per cent) bosses did nothing to support mothers returning from maternity leave, while a third (36 per cent) thought women were more of a future investment risk than men. 

The findings echoed research published last year by the Young Women’s Trust. This discovered 39 per cent of young mothers had been quizzed during job interviews about how their parental duties would affect their work, while 25 per cent said they had experienced discrimination when their employer found out they were pregnant. 

“Employers should value young women’s contributions to their workplaces and do more to accommodate them, including by offering more flexible and part-time working opportunities,” said the charity’s communications and campaigns director, Joe Levenson.

And a report released in February by the Equality and Human Rights Commission discovered 41 per cent of employers thought pregnant employees were an “unnecessary cost burden”.

Meanwhile, the women and equalities committee yesterday heard evidence that shareholders were yet to treat getting more women into executive positions as a priority.

The Guardian reported that Sarah Bentley, chief customer officer at Severn Trent, told the MPs that, while some investors recognised the importance of a diverse leadership team, she “wouldn’t say that’s true of all of our investors”.

Jonathan Crookall, people director at Halfords, added that among investors, getting women into executive roles was a “growing topic but it’s not at the top of the agenda yet”.

Also yesterday, the Pipeline’s Women Count 2018 report, which tracked female representation on FTSE 350 executive teams, discovered this measure had stayed static at 16 per cent over the last three years. 

“Businesses that don’t understand the need to appoint more senior executive women are failing to meet their full potential,” said Nicky Morgan, Conservative MP for Loughborough, current treasury select committee chair and former women and equalities minister. “I ask them to read this report and wake up to reality, in their own interests and the country’s interests.”

Lorna Fitzsimons, co-founder of The Pipeline, added: “We are at a critical juncture for gender equality in the workplace and this report has issued a stark warning.”

Figures published last month to highlight the halfway mark of the Hampton-Alexander Review, which pledged to have 33 per cent of FTSE 350 board positions filled by women by 2020, revealed women now hold around a quarter (25.5 per cent) of FTSE 350 board roles. 

However, Denise Wilson, chief executive of the review, told People Management around 235 women needed to be appointed to board posts over the next two years to meet the ambitious target. She added all-male shortlists held “no place” in companies that hoped to improve their gender diversity. 

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