Don’t Keep Us Down

Discrimination report

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Each year, in the Young Women’s Trust annual survey young women have consistently reported high levels of discrimination in the workplace, to the extent that in 2023 fully half of all the young women we surveyed said they’d experienced this. 

Discrimination is clearly a force shaping young women’s experiences of the workplace, and contributing to a persistent income gap of around a fifth between young women and young men. But to what extent is it impacting their futures? What does it look and feel like? And crucially, what can be done about it? 

In this qualitative research Young Women’s Trust peer researchers spoke to 25 young women about their experiences of discrimination whilst working or looking for work. We also heard from 70 employers about what they’re doing to tackle discrimination in the workplace and where they need support to improve. 

We found that: 

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  • young women face discrimination directed at multiple aspects of their identities: their ethnicity, appearance, mental health, disability, religion, class, sexuality, gender, age and having caring responsibilities. 
  • age is a common factor that exacerbates other experiences of discrimination and makes it harder to challenge it. 
  • discrimination has far reaching impacts for young women, including on their career progression as they report losing confidence and even leaving their roles as a result. 
  • discrimination often goes unreported and unaddressed, as young women are scared to report it or don’t know how. When they do, they often see little action taken. 

But the onus should not be on young women to lead change. Employers could and should do more to make it easier to report discrimination, and to show that there are consequences. Young women often feel that nothing will be done or worse, reporting it will make their lives more difficult. Most employers agreed that while policies in place, they could be more visibly and clearly communicated. Doing this is a simple step that could make a big difference.  

Creating workplaces free of discrimination is about culture as well as policy. Visible leadership from senior staff and colleagues alike in showing zero tolerance for these behaviours is needed.  

Young women have so much to offer the workplace and they deserve to have jobs where they can thrive. It’s not right that they’re being kept down and forced out. But the solutions are here – it’s time for us all to act. 

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