Sexual Bias and Glass Ceiling Issues Remain Intact in the 21st Century

i4cp study finds more than half of companies have faced sexual discrimination complaints; most choose to handle them in-house and quietly

SEATTLE, WA (July 16, 2008) – Despite the time and attention devoted to remedying them, sexual discrimination issues continue to plague today’s businesses. A recent study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) found that more than half of the companies polled report they’ve had a sexual discrimination complaint lodged, and 43% say they’ve experienced personal clashes over sexual discrimination issues in their organization.

It’s not as though companies aren’t paying attention to the issue, however. A full 83% have specific written guidelines regarding sexual discrimination. Areas covered in the policies include opposite-sex discrimination, addressed by 93% of organizations, followed by same-sex discrimination and sexual orientation (both at 80%). Pregnancy is considered in written policy by 54% of respondents, and trans-gender issues are covered by a quarter of organizations.

"The survey results show that, despite the emphasis on training and the gender diversity of workplaces, perceptions of sexual discrimination are still widespread,” says i4cp research analyst Anne Lindberg.

Most companies also provide training and other options regarding sexual discrimination issues. More than 76% offer reporting avenues (such as hotlines, supervisor contacts, etc.), while 67% provide sexual discrimination training for managers and supervisors, 57% offer such training for employees, and 39% have counseling services available.

The study also showed that most sexual discrimination complaints do not end up in court. Eighty percent of companies queried say they have not been sued as a result of complaints. The majority of complaints (66%) were handled in-house, and 15% were turned over to outside mediation. Of those cases ending up in litigation, 47% were settled out of court favoring the employee who brought the suit, and in 12% of the cases, the employee dropped the suit.

With regard to equal pay issues and women occupying key roles in organizations, the study found that 17% of all organizations do not offer the same pay for women and men with like expertise/experience; 62% report that women serve on their organization’s board of directors. Overall, women hold upper-management positions within companies to a lesser extent. The study found that 30% of companies have a woman SVP/EVP, 18% have a woman serving as CFO, and just 16% have a female CEO. Among companies with 5,000 or more employees, however, around 58% have women serving in SVP/EVP positions.

“The findings suggest the glass ceiling still seems to be in place,” Lindberg said. “Although 62 percent of respondents overall say they have women serving as members of their boards, a majority of companies do not have women in upper-management positions. I think this finding would distress the generation of women who, starting in the 1960s, broke barriers into the workplace and hoped to find equality for themselves and those that followed.”

The Taking the Pulse: Sexual Discrimination survey was conducted by i4cp, in conjunction with, in July 2008. The full results of the survey are available exclusively for all i4cp corporate members.

About i4cp, inc.

i4cp is the world’s largest private network of corporations focused on improving workforce productivity. Our vendor-free community facilitates innovation by giving our members – among the largest and most respected organizations in the world – access to:
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With more than 40 years of experience and the industry’s largest team of human capital analysts, i4cp is the definitive destination for organizations seeking innovative ways to improve workforce productivity. For more information, visit
Erik Samdahl
Erik is the head of marketing at i4cp, and has nearly 20 years in the market research and human capital research industry.