C-suite women are more likely than men to report toxic workplace behavior

March 16, 2023, 11:24 AM UTC
Businesswoman holding head in hands in the office
Women are 41% more likely to report experiencing a toxic workplace culture than men, according to researchers at CultureX.
Getty Images

Good morning!

Toxic workplaces aren’t equally tortuous for all employees. A new survey finds that women still bear the brunt of unhealthy workplaces. In fact, they are 41% more likely to report experiencing a toxic workplace culture than men, and it often goes undetected by employers. 

“It’s incredibly easy to overlook this if you don’t have the right measurement tools,” says Charles Sull, an author of the study and cofounder of CultureX, which uses A.I. to help leaders analyze their corporate culture. “Employees are going to be a little bit less likely to report [a toxic culture] if you don’t ask them in the exact right way.” 

He refers to the most negative workplace traits as the “toxic five,” a set of behaviors that include disrespect, non-inclusion, unethical behavior, cutthroat competition, and abusive behavior. Sull and his coauthor Donald Sull analyzed over a million Glassdoor employee reviews and correlated which workplace traits most negatively impacted Glassdoor ratings.

Feelings of workplace toxicity were even more pervasive among women at higher levels within organizations. C-suite level women were 53% more likely than men to say they’d experienced toxicity in the workplace. Sull likes to remind leaders that toxicity can appear in many ways, whether that be favoritism, racial inequity, or outright abuse, especially in large organizations.

“It can vary remarkably across different segments of the employee population. So there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing toxic culture and closing the toxic culture gender gap,” he says.

Because of this, Sull says it’s imperative that HR executives develop listening tools, encourage transparent responses from employees, and provide support once such behavior is detected.

“You can see just by reading these quotes on Glassdoor about toxicity that they’re very emotionally resonant,” says Sull. “It’s difficult for them to leave these [issues] behind at work.”

Amber Burton

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes, and insights from the field.

Many Gen Zers believe they can achieve successful careers without college degrees. That's good news for employers removing degree requirements. (Looking at you, IBM.)

Fortune’s Jane Thier writes that 40% of Gen Z Americans believe college degrees aren’t necessary, and 70% say they consider freelancing just as viable a career option as a traditional nine-to-five.

Around the Table

A round-up of the most important HR headlines, studies, podcasts, and long-reads.

- In a win for organized labor, Michigan became the first state in the country to repeal right-to-work laws. Washington Post

- Apple will reduce bonuses for some divisions and freeze hiring. Bloomberg

- Marriott International designed its new headquarters to look more like a swanky hotel than a corporate office. Wired

- The prevalence of boomerang employees is a double-edged sword providing employers with both a ready-made talent pool and a retention nightmare. HBR


Everything you need to know from Fortune.

Diversity-hushing. Repeated suggestions that Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse was due, in part, to its DEI focus are unlikely to dissuade companies from keeping diversity programs in place. —Lila MacLellan

First impressions. poor onboarding process can lead to early departures of newly hired employees. A survey from payroll company Paychex found that 80% of employees with subpar onboarding experiences planned to quit their new job soon. —Orianna Rosa Royle

New kid. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg says engineers who joined the company in a fully remote capacity performed worse than those who started with at least some in-person work. —Nicholas Gordon

Gender gap uncertainty. Researchers are still stumped about what causes the gender wage gap, according to a study from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau. —Megan Leonhardt 

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet