The Davies report has highlighted inequalities at the boardroom level. They are critical and should be tackled, as uniform boards reach uniform decisions. For the future changes which are needed, we should build diverse pipelines, support and create a much wider selection of people who have different skills, experiences, backgrounds, ways and talents of working. This is no niche agenda!
Businesses are constrained by a lack of talent. We are in need of our organisations to be always a better reflection of the demographics of the grouped communities and societies they serve. Balance with regard to women is the most obvious dimension of the challenge and, with increased women graduating than men, the increased loss of women from the workforce at all known levels is really a huge waste. Flexible working is really a crucial section of this.
Creating workplace cultures where managers have the confidence and leadership skill to obtain the very best from flexible workforces will undoubtedly be better for all those. The talent pipeline will not just start somewhere in the centre degrees of management: it starts at school! We have to do more to encourage ladies into more diverse careers and roles, and help breakdown job stereotypes. Considering the British workforce broadly, some progress has been made, because of the Sex Equal and Discrimination Pay Acts, and a slew of positive role models. The workforce is split almost evenly between women and men now. The labour market participation which indicates the proportion of most adults who work, details that the gap between your sexes has narrowed from 40 percentage points in 1971 to less than 10 today.
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So disparities remain even. It’s important for women to truly have a space for safe conversations of their companies, where they are able to arrived at share their thoughts and become paid attention to together. The truth is that with women it isn’t about promotion and money always, it really is about feeling ownership, being engaged with the organisation emotionally, and feeling that the ongoing work they do represents their values. J.K. Rowling -Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows.
There is also greater awareness in larger companies that flexible working is essential if they want to work to keep their top staff – both men and women. Feminism used to get a bad rap from the media, but until there’s gender equality in the global world it really is still essential. The profusion of women’s networks suggests that women connect in a different way to men and like to learn from and support each other. Some men (and also women who sabotage other female peers, which is a current problem highlighted in research) do need to change their attitudes and appreciate the differences between the way men and women network.
The proportion of female directors at FTSE 100 companies rose from 12.5 per cent in 2010 to 15 per cent in 2011 in the UK, but nearly all women do not believe that change is certainly going enough or far enough fast. Quotas might be a blunt instrument however they may be inevitable. Having seen how slow things have moved in this direction, one can see that more and more people are less against quotas as before. There are organisations using more innovative ways of introducing senior female leaders in their companies.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, for instance, plans to boost the number of women it promotes to senior posts using a new “comply or explain” approach. PwC denies that these targets were structured the same as quotas, an approach that has been criticised by senior women in business. It believes that introducing a ‘comply or explain’ approach is different to quotas, and that tokenism does not result in a meritocracy. Diversity must be looked at at every stage of individuals management and development consciously; from recruiting and identifying key talent to development, retention and promotion. If it’s used even, compulsion wouldn’t normally be high to effect a result of a cultural shift enough, plus some have called on senior men to discover the continuing business case for change. Getting this right is not only about careers for women; it is essential for the economy as a whole.
Businesses with equal numbers of men and women at the senior management level are more profitable than businesses with predominantly male leaders. What is more, demographic shifts mean that by 2030 the UK for example, will be short of 1.3m people of leadership age. More ladies in senior management would address both these presssing issues. Men and women have a lot to offer to the economy – be it by starting up their own businesses or by letting their entrepreneurial flair and business savvy shine in the corporate world.
Employers need to act out of self interest to broaden the pools of talent available to them and ensure they do not lose out on the skills, energy and passion professionals can bring to their workplaces if they were allowed to work more autonomously and flexibly. Governments are right to actively stimulate the wider take up of flexible working by employers and to seek to support them in setting up and growing their own enterprises. It makes perfect sense to find ways of helping people do this in order to build economic growth.