Diversity in the boardroom
Diversity is widely understood to be fundamental to the sustained growth of any business. So how can businesses of all shapes and sizes take steps to build a pipeline of more women progressing into leadership roles?
Lynn Walters together with Christina Youell head up the Women’s Leadership Programme, which supports businesses in the Eastern region to develop more inclusive talent pipelines. The initiative has already helped around 65 aspiring female leaders to strengthen their leadership skills and develop their confidence and worked with their employers to remove barriers to progression.
Lynn commented: “It has been refreshing to see a shift in government focus from measuring the number of women on boards, to encouraging businesses to support more capable women to progress from entry level to senior management positions. And, while it is fantastic that there are more female non-executive directors in the boardroom, the very nature of their roles makes it harder for them to be role models, as they are less visible within the organisation.”
As well as being designed to help delegates to develop their authentic leadership skills and support them to work with their employers on developing a more inclusive culture, the aim of the Women’s Leadership Programme has been to inspire organisations across the Eastern region to create rewarding work environments where any barriers to progression are removed.
A recent report by the Boston Consulting Group* showed there is no difference in ambition levels between men and women when they first start out in their careers, but women only continue to aspire to leadership roles if they work in organisations with positive work environments. Therefore, company culture is proving to be a vital element in tackling the leaking pipeline of women in business.
In Lynn’s opinion, the companies which are most successful at building inclusive talent pipelines are those where leaders are fully engaged in having these discussions and are keen to ask questions rather than make assumptions. She feels that if organisations don’t know why women fail to climb the ladder they can’t dig out any problems and find positive solutions.
She commented: “It’s not just about looking at the number of women already in senior and leadership positions. Is there an equal balance of men and women joining the organisation in entry level roles?”
Although the Women’s Leadership Programme is making in-roads, positive solutions to stop the leakage can vary across organisations, from removing any unconscious gender bias in the promotion process, through to ensuring flexible working practices are clear, transparent and available to both men and women.
“Overall, the company culture should be focussed on results and outcomes and not the amount of time spent in the office.” Lynn said.
However, it seems that the biggest, yet simplest step any employer can make is to inspire and support female talent in the first place by encouraging involvement in projects and the chance to take on broader responsibilities.
“Even if they don’t have all the right skills immediately, if you spot the potential, attitude and enthusiasm, then back them to do the job. There’s a strong chance they will thrive and, in turn, your business, and the overall regional economy, will benefit.” Lynn concluded.
Lynn Walters is Co-Founder and Director at Pure Resourcing Solutions, professional recruitment specialists, which includes Pure Executive, a division dedicated to Executive Search for the East of England. E: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Women’s Leadership Programme contact Lucy Plumb on 01223 666455.