How thin is the glass ceiling, really? - Emerge UK
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How thin is the glass ceiling, really?

You’ll have heard that phrase, we’re sure. It loosely means, at least for some sections of society, that top jobs within a company could be in sight, but the route to secure them is blocked.

Commonly, this term is applied to the obstacles women can face when they attempt to sit on boards, or when aspiring to be the CEO of a company. Although the issue is something that gets talked about nowadays at least, it appears there’s still a lot of work to do.

Well under 10% of the FTSE 100 companies have a woman steering the business from the helm. And with regards to other senior roles, women hold just a sixth of them. And when recently surveyed by DWF, 57% of the CEOs questioned admitted that gender equality is not on their list of priorities.

Which seems strange, in today’s consumerist world. 70%-80% of all purchases are driven by women. You think that new car your male friend bought was their choice? Women, primarily, buy for other people, so they also represent access to other markets. And their global income is predicted to reach $18 trillion by next year.

Women often make buying decisions based on their emotions, as well as a combination of other factors. From a logical point of view, to understand this emerging market that’s set to outstrip all others, if it hasn’t already (i.e. female consumers), it would help to have plenty of women on the inside of a company. Can a man honestly understand the workings of a woman’s mind?

That said, those campaigning for gender equality would prefer any decision to promote a woman to the top of a company to be based on her talent and attributes, rather than as a shallow reaction to consumerism. It’s not about filling quotas, or presenting a balanced front to shareholders and the media; it’s about appointing the right person to the job – whether they’re male or female. Unfortunately, however, unconscious bias still happens, and women lose out as a result.

There have been moves in the right direction – such as the recent law that will see companies publish their gender pay gap data. If companies insist on paying women less for doing the same job as their male counterparts, it’s right that they do it under the nose of their suppliers, stakeholders and customers, who can then choose to support such a stance with their money and/or collaboration.

Emerge offers executive coaching services to their clients. Quite often, it’s only with Emerge’s ‘third eye’ objectivity that obstacles to the top can be identified, and suitable changes made to ensure gender bias is eradicated as much as possible. For example, the company’s culture could unconsciously contribute to the glass ceiling. Policy may be in play that penalises women’s careers if they take their foot off the gas to have their family. Nature created this set-up; given the choice, would women happily opt to be the one to give birth, knowing the career they’d carefully built-up, pre-pregnancy, would be turned back ten years?

Research has shown that women returning to the workplace after having children are even more keen than their colleagues to progress. They’re not work-shy, quite the opposite. So keen to prove they’re still committed to their job, they often juggle more work than others in their departments, even if it’s done away from the office.

Emerge can help integrate gender-specific programmes, so that women are supported during their rise to the top, through mentoring, training, and confidence-building help and support.

No one is suggesting women should be given top roles just because they’re female; the whole aim of gender equality is to remove the obstacles women currently face, so that they can be considered an equally capable and talented candidate in the eyes of those making the appointment. Gender shouldn’t be an issue at all.

Executive coaching shouldn’t be engaged as a sticking plaster or PR move, either. Women don’t want lip service paid to the issue. They just want to get on, and have the same opportunities their male colleagues have. The benefits to a company would be the amount of unlocked talent and potential pouring in, a greater understanding of at least half their consumer base, and a happier workforce, to name but a few.

Emerge is renowned for its workplace coaching programmes, its support to companies implementing organisational or cultural change, as well as its personal, one-on-one coaching and development. Email us at, or call (01329) 820580.

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Established in 1997, and since then we have seen year on year growth and success in the national and global development market. We are proud of our client base and delighted that our growth has been based almost entirely on referrals from our satisfied customers...

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