Welcome to our season of blogs specifically designed for women. Based on the 8 Traits of Successful Women, a model called Elev8te. This model was designed by Gillian Jones-Williams who is Managing Director of Emerge Development Consultancy as a foundation for the RISE Women’s Development Programme. Over the next 12 weeks we will be exploring subjects based around Elev8te which affect women in their careers. In these blogs we will be examining issues that our RISE facilitators regularly hear, both in their coaching practice or on the RISE programme. The Elev8te model is also featured in our App The Empowered Women’s Success Programme.
In this blog we will look at some of the struggles that women face in getting promoted in the workplace. On our RISE Women’s Development Programme, we spend a lot of time looking at the differences between men and women and how these differences can hamper women’s career prospects. This particularly relates to 2 of the Traits of Successful Women in our Elev8te model, Fearless Focus and Relentless Resilience. The effort it can take for women to get to senior positions can take a lot of persistence and some women don’t last the distance.
Despite the noise coming from the government about gender parity research has shown that we are not making anywhere near the amount of progress we should be towards having a respectable representation of women in senior positions.
This is not just a women’s crusade; it is a business issue – statistics clearly show that boards with more females are advantaged both financially and creatively. In fact, some recent figures stated that firms with just one woman on their board are less likely to go bankrupt. Companies with higher female representation in their top tiers outperform others by delivering 34% greater return to shareholders.
So, what is holding women back in the workplace from getting them to where they would like to be? A historically bureaucratic organisational structure that only allows you to move upwards when your manager retires or expires? A male dominated type of company that doesn’t truly appreciate the benefits of having women in senior positions? Lip service to gender parity? Or even more ridiculous reasons, as below;
With woman’s football hitting the headlines at the moment for their successes, this is a great example of women beginning to make inroads into a very male world. But why is there still a preference for male commentators on women’s football games? During the 2018 World Cup the former editor of the Independent came under fire for saying in his columns that “women talking about world cup games is like getting a netball player to discuss major league basketball”. Other comments from Barry Lewis and Jason Cundy stated that women’s voices were “too hard to listen too or too squeaky when they get excited” and that they needed a lower register, hence why men were the preferred choice!
During the 2018 tournament, Alex Scott and Eni Aluko who were chosen by the BBC and ITV to commentate on the World Cup became the subject of much debate. Did they not do a good job? Quite the opposite, they were informative, charismatic and clearly well researched, so what was the problem – did the men feel threatened? Whatever the reason, it is unbelievable that we should still be having these types of conversations, and shows how far we still have to come for gender parity.
Research and neuroscience have thrown up a lot of facts recently about the differences between men and women. Many people can now quote the fact that women are more risk averse and that if they looked at a CV and felt that they only had 60% of the criteria they wouldn’t apply, whereas a man would feel they had a real chance. Interestingly though, what also happens is that when the woman does get through to interview, they will openly apologise for the parts of the job that they cannot do. So, what are organisations doing to change this – are they being savvier about how they write job specifications to avoid this? Are we changing the way that we recruit and interview? Are they preparing women better in order to ensure they come across as well as men? In my experience there are a lot of good efforts but still a lot more could be done
So, awareness is great but organisations really need to change behaviour. Recently an HRD who was conducting a process for a new CEO told me that they needed 80% more female applicants than men to end up with an equal shortlist to interview! Sadly, the bare truth is that board members are more willing to open the doors to people who are ‘just like them’ and if the current board are predominantly white and male then that trend will continue. Last year, Britain released details from the Hampton-Alexander Review which examined this issue and the report was laced with weak explanations for the dismal numbers including “All the ‘good’ women have already been snapped up”, “We have one woman already on the board”, and “most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board”. These perceptions are not just unhelpful they are actually
So, what else can women do to improve their chances of achieving a senior role?
- Female Women need to be bolder about applying for roles regardless of whether they have all the requirements for the role
- candidates should insist on detailed feedback as to why they were unsuccessful in their interview to ensure that the reasons were entirely fair
- Organisations should recruit from the inside – have a far more effective talent management and succession planning process and ensure that there is a strong path for preparing women at board level – if your company doesn’t have one start asking why.
- Seek referral programs that specifically target women
- Enrol on a Women’s Development programme that allows you to discuss the issues that you are facing, challenge your inner beliefs and increase your confidence to apply for senior positions.
- Seek out a mentor – or several mentors!
Image Source: The Telegraph