A small but powerful group of "barrier bosses" are halting progress towards gender equality, according to a new study.
Research by the Fawcett Society found that managers in charge of recruitment were more than twice as likely to be against equality of opportunity than the general population.
A survey of over 1,400 recruitment managers found one in seven believed they would lose out if men and women were more equal.
One in four of the men and women questioned said they believed a more equal society would not be better for the economy, compared with 13% in a separate survey of 8,000 adults.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said: "A significant minority of managers - the 'barrier bosses' - are holding us back. They are the ones with the power over recruitment and their decisions are likely to be informed by their attitudes to equality.
"There are many progressive employers who are working hard to drive change, but if they are wondering what is holding up progress in their organisation this may explain why.
"Whether it is conscious or unconscious bias, this is discrimination in action. These are the people responsible for implementing equal opportunities policies yet 16% say they are opposed to the idea.
"This is bad for individual employers, because they are not recruiting or promoting the best people, and bad for the economy as they are holding women back, failing to use their skills and expertise."
The survey also found that men were more likely to support equality of opportunity for women than women themselves.
Nicky Morgan, Minister for women and equalities, said: "Achieving gender equality isn't just good for women, it's essential for our whole country. That's why we all - both men and women - have a part to play. As we know from the work of business leaders like Lord Davies and from men who have inspired each of us in our own lives, men can be our greatest allies.
"We have come a long way and there are now more girls taking STEM subjects at school, a record number of women in work, more women on boards and the gender pay gap is at its lowest level ever.
"But there is clearly still a long way to go and that's why this government is ?determined to go further and faster than ever before to close the gender pay gap in a generation, and to make sure ?all women can fulfil their potential."
Kate Green, shadow minister for women and equality, said: "The results of this survey showing that most men believe women's equality is good for the economy confirms that the public are ahead of 'barrier bosses' who are holding women back at work.
"Gender equality is good for workers and good for business. Employers should take note of this research, and work with unions and with their employees to ensure that women and men are able to reach their full potential."