There has been a flurry of information published over the last few months, all reporting about Women on Boards. Some have been encouraging and show signs of progress (you can read the latest figures in a Telegraph article this week) but the overarching picture remains: Whilst women are becoming a higher percentage of the workforce, the number reaching the top is still very small – recent reports show only 16.7% are getting into board positions in the UK. So what’s holding women back? Is it all in the mind or do real barriers exist?
Here at Skills4, we are very familiar with the issues detailed in some recent research by Ashridge Business School –www.ashridge.co.uk– that shows how the barriers are very real and related to mindset and behaviours. The findings highlight issues such as organisational culture, attitudes and stereotyping as key factors that block women’s success. Add to the mix negative perceptions after having children, ‘jobs for the boys’, a lack of self-belief and personal confidence and you can see there are some big hurdles to overcome.
So why is this important and how can women and organisations make a break from these issues to become more diverse?
We have seen that the operating results of more gender-diverse companies are exceeding those of those companies with no women on their senior management teams by an average 56%*. So it’s important – not just for women’s career ambitions but for business performance and the economy too.
However, such deep rooted attitudes and beliefs are not going to fix themselves, and the good news is that that there are companies out there making headway in gender diversity.
Recently over 1,200 women have been supported in a Skills4 Women in Work programme. They key here is that they sought help – specialist, bespoke help – to reach the heart of the issues. They have been supported by a training course designed and delivered by Skills4 that encourages women to take stock of their career aims and make plans to achieve their goals. Importantly it also tackles issues around communication, confidence and self-belief.
In a latest development, women can now also gain an accredited award in Career Advancement and Progression, another tool enabling women to achieve a higher visibility in their organisations.
So, do barriers stopping women getting the top exist? Yes they do. And whilst there are well intentioned and purposeful policies to support women in business, attitudes and beliefs still play a stronger part. So to that end, you could say, the issues are also a matter for our minds!
*Women Matter: Gender Diversity, a Corporate Performance Driver, McKinse