Employing more women in senior positions has the potential to increase productivity and boost the economy, says Jo-Ann Feely, Alexander Mann Solutions’ Head of Consulting
With just three female executives in the FTSE100, and the percentage of women joining boards standing at 17.3%, the challenge of how to increase gender diversity at senior management level and beyond has never been more acute. That’s why clarifying the business case for boosting the female talent pipeline is vital to enabling more female middle managers to attain senior positions.
Barriers to career progression
Currently, just 40% of HR leaders consider improved business performance to be a benefit of increasing the number of women in senior roles . This is a real barrier to the career progression of the many thousands of talented female middle managers in the UK, leaving some dissatisfied with their jobs, concerned about career progression, or even tempted to resign. Also, as most senior management positions are filled by internal candidates, the internal talent pipeline is clearly not delivering true gender diversity.
Exploring the business case
Ensuring that female professionals’ capabilities are harnessed more effectively could significantly enhance company productivity, providing a
real boost to the economy. With more than two million women in the UK working in managerial positions, we estimate that the potential benefit to the country from unblocking the female talent pipeline could be £5 billion .
Employing more women helps to catalyse innovation, increases the representation of consumers in employee teams, ensures compliance with legal and moral obligations, and builds more effective team participation. The net result is that companies achieve higher levels of employee engagement, with operational performance improving by nearly 20% .
So what can businesses do to ensure that more female middle managers achieve their full potential?
Karen Gill, founder of everywoman, the membership organisation that champions the advancement of women in business, believes that, “Businesses are increasingly aware of the benefits a diverse workforce brings, but some still do not know where to start to develop their female talent pipeline. Evolving women in your succession planning is key this will encourage your female staff to focus on their career goals and strengthen your business, taking them both to the next level.”
Tackling the gender diversity challenge
Recognising that gender diversity has a positive impact on company performance is vital to unlocking the full potential of female staff and multiplying the number of diversity initiatives in place.
Listening to the ambitions of female middle managers will then help to close the gap between their career aspirations and HR leaders’ perceptions. We recommend that HR and Learning and Developing professionals focus on the training and development needed for female middle managers to succeed, as it’s often the case that they don’t prioritise their own development, believing ability and drive alone will lead to promotion.
Extending flexible working options would also be a great help to women in reaching more senior roles. While 74% of female middle managers are satisfied with the level of flexibility in their current jobs, they agree that lifestyle choices are a major obstacle to career progression . In some cases, women with children who can’t achieve the work-life balance they desire may leave the pipeline altogether.
Finally, senior female ‘role models’ could potentially be doing more to help other female colleagues progress. More should be done by companies to ensure that role models are relevant and accessible.
We anticipate that improving women’s progression from middle to senior management will have a ‘multiplier effect’ by generating a healthy pipeline of female talent for executive and board-level appointments. For now, the responsibility rests with employers to engage with their female middle managers.
Alexander Mann Solutions and everywoman have explored these challenges and solutions in detail via a new report entitled ‘Engaging the full potential of female middle managers’. More than 400 UK-based female middle managers and 200 HR leaders were surveyed to provide research for the report.
Responsible for driving innovation, Jo-Ann Feely is Alexander Mann Solutions’ Head of Consulting.
Alexander Mann Solutions is the world’s leading provider of talent acquisition and management services. It integrates outsourcing capability and consulting expertise to enable organisations to attract, engage and retain top talent. For more information please visit www.alexandermannsolutions.com.