A recent survey has found that nearly 38 per cent of around 1,000 former students of Murray Edwards college, experienced gender inequality, non-supportive and difficult colleagues and managers, discrimination, bullying, bias and undervalued work at some point in their careers.

The unique study of past students at the all-female college revealed that discrimination and bullying has proved a bigger career challenge than achieving a work-life balance.

Around 1,000 alumnae of Murray Edwards college, from the ages of twenty to their seventies, took part in the survey, answering questions about the biggest problems they had faced during their lifetimes. Some famous graduates having studied at the college since it was founded sixty years ago include TV presenter Claudia Winkleman and scientist Lizzy Hawker.

Dame Barbara Stocking, a former student at the college said: "This is a shocking result. If women say that they are not being treated on merit, then all the arguments against positive discrimination – or quotas in certain areas – fall away. Our survey confirms my belief that the only way to achieve a more equal balance in the workplace is by introducing quotas. Merit is clearly not enough."

The former head of Oxfam added: "Sadly, our survey also showed that women rarely cited support from their employers as being a positive force." Instead, the women surveyed said they tackled workplace challenges through their own drive, dedication and hard work as well as the support of partners, family, friends and mentors.

Perhaps surprisingly, more than half said they had managed to combine work and family comfortably. Graduates of most ages identified family life as the single-most important factor in their lives. Those aged between 30 and 49 found maintaining work-life balance most difficult.

Dame Barbara said: "As well as wanting to make a difference to society – which was top of the list of their ambitions – they want to have their voices heard; feel respected and valued in their role; and work with colleagues with whom they connect."

At Royds, our employment law specialists can advise individuals on a range of employment issues including discrimination and their employee rights. We work to ensure good employment relations, avoiding potentially expensive and disruptive claims.

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