Age, gender and flexible working for C-Suite Executives

Written by: James Dunne
Published on: 26 Sep 2016

I wrote fairly recently about a really interesting piece of research from a leadership/career coaching company, investigating “the thorny question of executive-level discrimination as it affects recruitment, promotion and general, everyday work in the senior management world.”

Clearly, we weren’t the only ones impressed by this work, because the CIPD also made reference to it in the September issue of their People Management magazine (although modesty doesn’t prevent me from noting that we saw it first!), as did the IoD in Scotland in their autumn magazine.

I’ve also discovered that this original research has been followed up by another piece of work, investigating some of the results of the first study in more detail.

This new study is available at this link, but the key findings are, I think, very interesting for our senior-level audience here at, given that this is a real and current (and not going away any time soon) issue. 

What was particularly interesting for me (as a former MD who is over 50) is that the majority of respondents believe exec-level age discrimination starts before the age of 40, and women think it happens more at an earlier age than men do. Also, as people get older, it seems that most believe it will be more difficult to get a new job after redundancy, but with some differences between the sexes.  Two-thirds of men are confident about getting a new job if they are made redundant when they are over 40, but only 36% of women are similarly confident about this. However, once over 50 more men (73%) than women (67%) are not confident about getting a job and once over 60 both sexes (89% men, 94% women) are not confident of getting a job. While perhaps unsurprising, given the ageing profile of the population generally, are we really casting all this experience on the scrap-heap?

In addition, the findings suggest that male bosses are more likely to discriminate, in any way, than their female equivalents.  However, women managers were more likely to discriminate on the grounds of age against other women than against men (raising the spectre of the Queen Bee syndrome which we wrote about in our blog last year).

When it comes to flexible working – the subject of our last blog – nearly three-quarters of respondents believe that, for whatever reason, people who work part/flexi-time are discriminated against. However, when the results were separated by gender, nearly 90% of women think that part/flexi-time working results in discrimination but for men the figure is less than 50%.  The obvious, stereotypical, conclusion is that this is due to women working after a career break to raise a family, but, while this is almost certainly a factor, I suspect there may be far more variables at play here.  More research would certainly be interesting.

Finally, and in a result which shows that we’re all generally cynical about each other, a majority of both male (58%) and female (57%) respondents believe that people complain about all forms of discrimination when it actually hasn’t taken place. We have all been there, and while perception is often rooted in reality, there will instances when an individual’s belief that they have been discriminated against will be unfounded.  That said, the answer, clearly, is for us all to stop discriminating against others on grounds of age, sex or indeed any other variable other than ability and experience!

James Dunne,