Gender equality at work: our new Government-commissioned research on the barriers to women’s progression

In 2018 the Government commissioned a series of academic evidence reviews on family friendly policies and women’s progression as part of the Workplace and Gender Equality Research Programme. These looked at:

  • How and why do women and men’s career paths change after having children?

  • What barriers women face to progression in the workplace and what works to help overcome them?

  • What motivates employers to offer family friendly policies and practices; how does it benefit them; and what policy interventions might work to encourage employers to offer them?

The research shows that:

  • Mothers are more likely to withdraw from full-time employment compared to fathers after having children and for those who do return to work, their career progression often gets stuck with a lower chance of getting a promotion.

  • Women’s progression in the workplace continues to be held back by barriers such as bias around pay and promotion, difficult workplace cultures (i.e. sexual harassment), tensions between balancing work with care and a shortage of quality part-time work with a good wage potential.

  • Introducing transparent and formal processes on pay and progression, destigmatising part-time and flexible work and better training for managers to support alternative working patterns are some of the actions employers could take to support progression in the workplace.

  • Employers as well as employees can benefit from introducing family friendly policies and practices with advantages such as better productivity, reduced absenteeism, improved recruitment and retention and higher staff satisfaction.

The main report for each evidence review sets out the context, methodology and findings along with recommendations to help employers to overcome some of the barriers to progression faced by women in the workplace

The summary report for each evidence review provides a short concise overview to enable employers to gain an immediate understanding of the main issues and recommendations outlined in the main reports.

For more detail on this research please contact


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