Are you making the most of your female talent?

Research by McKinsey, Catalyst, Reuters Thomson and others continues to demonstrate the business case that organisations with women in senior roles have higher returns on equity and operating results than those that don’t. Despite this, progress in improving the pipeline of female talent in the UK is still lagging. Among FTSE 250 companies only 23% of Non-Executive Directors are women and significantly, only 4.6% of Executive Directors are women. Meanwhile research from Aspire suggests 78% of women are thinking about leaving their corporate jobs to start their own business.

Individual coaching and career development programmes which enable women to make better use of their motivation and talents have a really important part to play here. But achieving levels of gender equality that will make a real and lasting positive impact on the business means committing to much wider organsational change.

Some companies are making a good start by identifying internal sponsors and training them to mentor talented women and promote their case to otherwise inaccessible groups, as well to better understand and navigate organisation politics, gain wider strategic vision and deeper business understanding. But it’s not nearly enough.

And as in most aspects of business, what gets measured – gets done. So achieving ambitions to have more women at senior management level means setting targets and indicators to track and monitor representation of women in talent pools, succession plans, and candidate lists at senior management level!

Yet the real barrier to retaining and making the most of your female talent is inconsistency between the company’s culture and the company’s gender D&I goals: long-hours vs. flexible work schedules; office-based vs. remote working; use of conferencing technology vs. business trips; gender bias in recruitment and promotion; ignoring women on maternity leave vs. actively managing career breaks…Such changes are are also being demanded by the talented young Millennial generation now making their mark in the workplace.

The starting point needs to be visible commitment to changing the processes, systems and ways-of-working that underpin company culture from the people who have the power to change it: the CEO and Executive Committee. They are  the role models and change agents who influence behaviours throughout the organisation – particularly of the line-managers responsible for managing people’s careers.

So if your company is wondering how to make the most of female talent – talk to your CEO about undertaking a wider cultural change programme that will bring about lasting and sustainable gender equality throughout the organisation. By doing so you could benefit all the men and women your future business success depends on.

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