As we all know from widely reported data, women are underrepresented at senior levels in organisations, especially in the Executive Suite. This is despite McKinsey and Co finding in their 2020 report on ‘Why Inclusion Matters’ that companies in the top 25% for gender diversity in their executive team were 25% more likely to outperform on profitability and despite data showing that the lack of women leaders is having an adverse impact on the overall gender pay gap.

In September 2021 we held two workshops on ‘How to get Women to the Top of their Career Ladder’ facilitated by our Associate Janet Hayes.

From Janet’s presentation and the engaged discussion afterwards, it was clear that:

  • having sponsors, role models and support both at home and at work is essential for women’s self-belief, adaptability and resilience, particularly after a career break
  • female networking groups are helpful for women, especially if sponsored by senior women, but should also be open to men as potential advocates for women
  • women should be given early ‘stretch’ opportunities to help develop their careers
  • there is a need to balance working flexibly with the need to be present at work
  • awareness of our biases, both conscious and unconscious, which often emerge in the language both women and men use, is necessary
  • leadership teams and people managers should have measurable diversity and inclusion performance objectives
  • meaningful targets, even quotas, are key
  • companies should explicitly place more reliance on female values and definitions of success so that women can raise their profiles in a way that feels authentic to them.

There were many other important points made and discussed which organisations may wish to consider, including that coaching at an earlier stage would be helpful, as well as the provision of future leaders’ programmes for just women or for both women and men depending on the organisation’s needs. Here is a link to Janet’s presentation from the first workshop: How to get Women to the top of their Career Ladder.