There has been a lot said over the past few years around the need for businesses to achieve better representation of women in the workplace, a need which typically becomes more acute as the workforce becomes more senior. In a positive bid to address this, some organisations, and indeed countries, have introduced targets and quotas to achieve better ratios in the boardroom. While this will ensure there are more women holding more senior roles today and in the near future, this does little to resolve the issue of greater gender diversity in the long run.
At Hays we recently conducted research on perspectives and opinions around female representation in the workplace and found that women are very ambitious when it comes to the desire to reach managerial and director levels, but that this number drops when it comes to managing director and CEO roles, both generally and when compared to men.
Companies stand to reap the benefits of capturing a well-documented competitive advantage if they successfully harness the skills of a wide talent pool. Encouraging women to move to the highest positions will enrich decision making and will create leaders who in turn become beacons for their talent pipeline. So why does there continue to be a lack of female talent at the top?
Promote female ambition –Employers must develop a clear career development plan for management levels and above, and communicate these plans, encouraging women to take the next step in their careers. This will help ensure companies have a sustainable pipeline of women moving into senior management/leadership roles.
Enable employee self-promotion –Employers need to make changes to internal processes to ensure that their workforce has an opportunity to showcase their skills. Internal career opportunities should also be effectively communicated to make career paths visible and achievable to all employees. If the majority of the workforce feels they cannot self-promote and realise their ambitions, then this will have a negative effect on motivation and career satisfaction.
Implement and communicate gender diversity policies –Men and women who work for organisations with gender diversity policies and practices in place feel more positive about their ambition, pay and career opportunities. Employers must ensure they have gender diversity policies in place and that these are communicated clearly to employees.
Many organisations are fully underway with programmes designed to continue to develop and retain women in the workplace, others are earlier in their journey and less advanced. But for all, the challenge of continuing to access the skills of our most talented people is not a luxury, but a business imperative. It is one that, if planned and supported well, will reap the value of its investment many times over and ensure organisations have access to a deep and sustainable talent pool upon which to draw when planning for success.
The findings of the Hays gender diversity report are based on a survey of over 11,500 male and female respondents from across the world. The report can be found here.