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Building the female talent pipeline

Karen Gill

Karen Gill, co-founder of everywoman reveals how to build the female talent pipeline with some suggestions for HR, managers and women in work

Recruiting and securing new talent is vital to the success and growth of any business. Students in schools, colleges and universities across the UK have been receiving their results over the past few weeks, and businesses will be keen to snap up the brightest and the best.

Did you know that by 2015, 75 per cent of all graduates are expected to be female? It is a figure that deserves some attention – young women will make up the majority of future graduate talent and this has significant implications for employers now, then and in the future.

We know the issues for women in work are not really at entry or graduate level in a company. A recent study by the Chartered Management Institute revealed that at entry level women are faring better than men, earning £989 more than their male counterparts on average, but by middle-management they receive £1,760 less than men and at director level the gap widens to £15,561 (an average basic salary of £140,586 for men and £125,025 for women).

Middle management is the key leakage point along the pipeline which needs attention. This is often the point that woman realign their priorities, tiring of corporate politics, or going on to start families or their own businesses. So while 40 per cent of women hold first-line management positions, at mid-management, female representation dramatically declines to 15 per cent. Research also shows that if a working woman has a child, her chances of being hired fall by 79 per cent and she is half as likely to be promoted.

If female graduates are going to be the overwhelming majority, businesses are short sighted if they do not see that tackling the problems at mid-management level will dramatically reduce their talent pool.

We recently conducted a research report jointly with Alexander Mann Solutions - The Talent Pipeline Report - into gender diversity and its impact on business, specifically focusing on the importance of developing a strong female talent pipeline. This encompasses the entire workforce, from new graduates at the very bottom to executive and non-executive directors right at the top.

We know there is a business case for boosting female talent. Ensuring that female professionals’ capabilities are harnessed more effectively significantly enhances a company’s productivity. And for the UK as a whole the value of getting more women into work to is estimated to be worth billions to the economy.

There are a number of things highlighted in our Pipeline Report organisations can do too develop their female talent pipeline. These include:

  1. Focus on the ‘business case’ for gender diversity
  2. Align HR leaders’ perceptions with female middle managers’ ambitions
  3. Include female middle managers in succession planning
  4. Encourage female middle managers to take more responsibility for their own careers and development
  5. Extend flexible working options further along the pipeline
  6. Reshape female middle managers’ relationship with senior women role models

We work with companies such as Asda, Cisco, RBS and TNT who are already supporting the development of their female employees. We know that HR leaders are keen to improve both the talent pipeline of women in their businesses and to see more women driving their career. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to give women the tools they need to take charge of their own development.

Our campaign ‘Ambition Hour’ encourages women to take charge of developing their own careers by spending an hour a week exploring career goals and implementing a plan to make them a reality. The plan is free and can be downloaded at:

And membership of everywomanNetwork further supports this as it gives female employees access to a variety of online resources including workbooks, case studies and seminars so they get the most out of that time.

We all need to work together – government, business and women themselves to fix the pipeline. We all stand to gain much when we do.


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