There are more women in the workplace than ever before, a narrowing of the pay and employment gap, and greater flexibility for working parents — but despite these societal and professional evolutions, women remain underrepresented at a senior level.
With talent shortages and global competition on the rise, today’s employers can’t afford to lose out on high caliber talent — irrespective of gender — if they hope to succeed in a modern marketplace. So what’s really standing in the way of female progression? And what can organizations do to challenge the status quo?
Women in Leadership Breakfast Seminar:
A plan for action
Fresh from the publication of our ‘Women in leadership’ whitepaper — which explored the challenges facing women on the path to senior leadership — we invited Simon Hopkins,CEO of Elizabeth Finn Care, Margaret Gibson, CEO of Women’s Enterprise Scotland, and CEO of Working Families Sarah Jackson OBE to join Bonnie Clarke, Director of Badenoch & Clark, in sharing their experiences at a seminar in Central London.
Caron Bradshaw, CEO – Charity Finance Group
“Organisations have to help break down misconceptions about the next level and provide resources to make a viable link between career and family.”
Read the full interview >
1. How can organisations tackle unconscious bias?
Organisations should avoid referencing gender during their recruitment process. Candidates should be assessed during interview stages based on skill, organisational and team fit – not based on gender. However we should always have regard for the mix of skills, and not just tick boxes. Leaders should monitor their workforce and make sure that the balance is right for their business. In my experience, I do not evaluate gender in the recruitment process, but think that it is important to maintain a healthy balance across the organisation, which should help to counter unconscious bias organically
2. How should business leaders challenge the status quo within their organisation?
The way forward is not about the traditional command & control style of management. Organisations should look at the talent that they are bringing in and make sure that they are the right people to ignite positive relationships and an inclusive, flexible, organisational culture. Businesses should make sure that they develop their people, and introduce tailored programmes for their workforce, so that it becomes relevant for all staff; therefore helping to challenge the status quo.
Business leaders should encourage different ways of thinking, run training programmes at different times, encourage mentoring/buddy programmes and understand that their leaders may not necessarily be the ones in the most senior jobs. People with leadership qualities should be encouraged to create a diverse and inclusive atmosphere throughout all levels of the organisation.
3. What approach is best for flexible working?
Flexible working should be there for everyone to access. Making it mandatory won’t necessarily break down the taboos. Different people respond better to various ways of working, and this could mean that working from home for example is not actually the preferred choice for some. Also, by supporting men better, that might both normalise career progression for parents generally, and enable their counterpart to succeed at their work place as well
By being open, and normalising different situations and ensuring that flexible working is there as a viable option; it will help organisations to break down the barriers to progression.
4. How can employers make senior opportunities more accessible?
Organisations have to help break down the misconceptions about the next level and provide resources to make a viable link between career and family. As employers, we should change the ways we talk about leadership roles. We need to find out what the aspiring and future leaders need. We need to know what would lead to underrepresented groups feeling more “comfortable” considering senior roles and what is needed to enable that progression. By addressing these factors early on and supporting a transition, talented professionals will feel more confident and act on their ambitions to progress. Of course, not every person will want to become a senior leader, but as an organisation, we should try to understand why and if there is anything we can do to alleviate any of the concerns.
5. How can a recruitment partner support clients to address the issues addressed in our white paper?
A recruitment partner should be able to see both sides of the equation, by helping organisations avoid issues such as unconscious bias and submitting diverse shortlists, but also to encourage more female applicants to apply for senior positions. Challenge their hesitancy. Candidates should have the freedom to express themselves at interview stage and employers should bear in mind that the best person for the job might not always be the best performer at an interview.