Wome are being held back professionally as they tend to apologise more than their male colleagues, according to new research.
The "sorry skirts" problem was identified in a study by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), which found that while 60% of junior managers are female, the figure drops to just 20% among senior staff.
This comes after research found that a third of managers admitted to behaving "unethically" to get ahead in work, and that the number of women in low-paid jobs has tripled over the last 20 years.
It recently emerged that men are being paid bonuses twice as big as their female colleagues .
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CMI chief executive Ann Francke said: "Progress has been made to get more women on boards and to reduce the gender pay gap, but this has been all too small and all too slow. There is a drop-off in the female talent pipeline and changing this will be the only way we will ever see equal representation in UK boardrooms.
"Rather than a pipeline, we've had a female management pyramid for too long and it is time for change. Businesses need to support women to be authentic, individual and assertive, without becoming a cultural clone in a macho male environment.
"For years we've used the phrase 'glass ceiling' for women at the top, but more and more we find other obstacles even at entry level, through middle management and beyond.
"These hard-to-see hurdles and humps all too often make women opt out, and are why businesses lose a bank of talented people and managers. Employers need to do more so diversity delivers."
Equalities minister Maria Miller said: "Women are vital in building a stronger economy and we need to make sure we are making full use of their talents.
"There is a clear economic argument in ensuring that we don't penalise half of the population by allowing discriminatory workplace barriers. By equalising men and women's labour force participation rates the UK's GDP could gain up to 10% by 2030."