06 Nov

Post by Expedite

Posted in: General


The leadership gaps

Watching the progress of women in leadership is like watching someone climb up a greasy pole, you think you’re seeing progress, and then you realize you’re not. There have been improvements, but there’s still a long way to go.

How far can women go? As far as the boardroom, but this is still proving a difficult area for women to break into. According to a recent report by the Cranfield School of Management, only 10% of women are in executive roles, and employed as full-time managers within a company. {1} Female chief executives are at just 7%. A government backed review in 2017 set a target of at least 33% of FTSE 100 boardroom seats being held by women by the year 2020 and are hoping this will extend to FTSE 250 companies which is currently only 22.8% of women with boardroom roles. As we can see the pace of change is slow. {6}

It makes for depressing reading, and the gender pay gap still remains as wide as it ever was.

What’s more, it would appear that a large proportion of FTSE companies in the UK are not reporting on gender pay gaps within their own organizations for fear of losing their female staff. Exposure of large scale gaps between women’s pay and that of their male counterparts could be the apple that upsets the cart. In March 2018, with only a fortnight to go, less a third of nearly 10,000 companies had not reported their gender pay gaps to the government. {4} Such is the fear of their pay gaps being exposed, companies are willing to risk enforcement notices and court fines, rather than and face the music.

Currently, all organizations with more than 250 people must report their gender pay gaps by the beginning of April. {4} All public-sector organizations such as hospitals, universities, government departments and councils have until the end of March at time of publication.

Only 51% sent their reports back {4} and it doesn’t look good, because some reported figures weren’t even correct, with discrepancies in pay gaps which had included those outside of management rather than only including those in management and executive roles.

Clarity, consistency and transparency has been the aim, for companies to report pay gaps and then to search for ways to resolve them, but this has resulted in nothing but avoidance tactics or incorrect reporting so far, while bosses wring their hands over the results. For many, this is the first time anyone’s asked them to really look at their pay figures and see what it is they can do to make radical changes.

It’s clear there are issues, where do they need to focus, how can they improve on their gender pay gaps and be more transparent in future? These are all questions organizations are going to have to start asking themselves.

At time of publication companies had until midnight 4th April, and if their reports were not handed in by this time, they would face sanctions. These sanctions would be administered by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, with court fines for companies all over the UK.


Motherhood penalty/motherhood gap

One hurdle that millions of women all over the world are facing is with motherhood and childcare. The most glaring issue being that women are still considered the main carer for their children, and flexible working, a term which has been touted for many years, has still not really manifested itself in a useful way where women and children are concerned. As a result, the pay gap between men and women hasn’t narrowed as much it should, with most mothers are still making the choice between being with their children or working. In the western world it seems that work is still engineered towards those who are able to have at least one parent at home, and working long hours is still seen as a positive sign of commitment to progress and promotion.

It’s no wonder then that women have been overly cautious when it comes to taking maternity leave in the past.

A London Business School survey in 2014 revealed that a staggering 70% of women were anxious about taking a break from their career. {11} This survey had been carried out by the Women in Business Conference, and half of the women who’d responded were expecting up to 6 career changes over the course of a lifetime. These career changes for women centered around maternity leave, or perhaps taking another break later to take care of their children when they were older. Career breaks are great if they are being taken equally by both partners, or for a single parent, as they can give valuable time out of the office providing a sabbatical for travel or study.

However, for most women a career break is one where they are taking responsibility for the care of their children. Employers then, need to see the advantages of career breaks and see the benefits, and actively supporting and encouraging women to take time out, being receptive to them when they wish to return. By creating supportive programs which support women who wish to return to the workplace they do themselves and their businesses a favor.

Research by the Labour party in the UK also revealed that a breathtaking 50, 000 {12} women had been forced out of their jobs after taking time out on maternity leave. Women’s confidence often takes a beating once they’ve been away for a period of time and there needs to be more support on reintegration back into the workplace.

The focus on maternity and motherhood in this section has been to bring attention to the fact that for there to be any progress for women to climb the leadership ladder, parental career breaks need to be better supported.

“A view that it is more difficult for women to balance family life and a top-level career persists. Across countries, the “double burden” of balancing work and domestic life was the barrier cited most often in our Women Matter research—by 45 percent of respondents in Asia-Pacific, 34 percent in Europe and 31 percent in North America. Another oft-cited barrier was the “anytime-anywhere” work model that requires employees to be available at all times and geographically mobile.” {2}

It is clear that for women with children the lack of flexibility penalizes them from promotion and career progression. Policies that allow for much needed flexibility and part time working arrangements helps enormously, ones that promote adequate leave for both men and women. Improved, more affordable childcare facilities are also required, preferably onsite, so both parents can work effectively without worrying about childcare needs.


Pay gap

In an article from the Office for National Statistics, Understanding the gender pay gap in the UK, January 2018, provides depressing reading. It used what’s known as regression techniques to give insight into what affects the chasm between men and women’s pay.

Not only would it appear that full time work is in favor of men for ALL jobs, the gap widens significantly from the age of 40 onwards, peaking at 50 to 59. In 2017, women’s pay stopped growing as they got older and slowed down significantly.

And they also state that for *men who have worked for over 20 years in the same organization earn 20.8% more compared with those men who worked for no longer than one year; for women, pay is 17.5% higher. {13}

What’s interesting is men and women’s working patterns. Because what we see from the statistics the OfNS is that men are more likely to work full-time than women, and in 2017 the median hourly pay was significantly higher for men than women.

*For men, median hourly pay for full-time work was 65.4% higher than for part-time work, and for women it was 42.8% higher. {13}

Between the ages of 30 to 39 and 40 to 49 almost all men’s jobs are full-time (90%) In their child rearing years, women are less likely to work full time with just over 60% for women between the ages of 30 to 39 and 57.6% for women between 40 to 49. {13}

So, the opportunities for women to lead and to sit on an executive board is hampered by the fact that not only are they not getting enough support during their child rearing years and working part time, they’re not getting the support they need when they return to work either. And this clearly supports our earlier section on maternity and childcare.


Can women succeed on their own then via entrepreneurship and running their own business?

As a way of avoiding the scarcity of affordable childcare and lack of flexibility in the workplace women are looking for other solutions. Trying to work around the barriers of attaining leadership positions and the challenges motherhood present to a woman’s career, an increasing number of them are setting up solo, and the phenomenon is global. Although even here, there are still some issues.

Even with startups, where women have the advantage of home care, there are some dismal statistics, with only 17% of startups in 2017 headed by women and the figures hadn’t grown for 6 years. {14}

But all is not lost, because there are still some things to feel positive about, female entrepreneurship has been growing at a rate of 13% in comparison to the 5% growth in male ventures over the past ten years, and in the past 15 years, women owned firms have grown at 1.5 times the rate of other small businesses, in the US contributing to the potential creation of 5 million jobs by 2018. {15} {16}


So, what is the issue with female led startups?

No matter how passionate women are when it comes to their own businesses, and no matter how many new businesses are created daily by women, venture capital is still hard to come by. It may come as no surprise that most venture capital in the world is dominated by men, which benefits no one but men. Again, as with childcare and parental leave, for women to succeed in leadership they need support, support that helps female entrepreneurs to feel better equipped to start their business, with more available finance.

Other areas for women to raise finance has been via Etsy and eBay, with increasing access to finance through crowdfunding and female-led venture firms. That said, only 10% of venture capital funding around the world went to women between 2010 and 2015, and are far more likely to ask friends and family or banks to invest straight up {15}


Economic advantages to women in leadership

There is clearly an advantage to closing the pay gap and supporting women through parental career breaks, helping them to climb the ladder towards leadership. This benefits the economy as a whole as well as the individual. With more flexible work hours and better support structures being the norm rather than the rarity, vast improvements could be seen in the world economy.

Accounting solely for the impact of closing the gender pay gap, the estimated impact in the UK would be an additional 3150 billion being added to the UK economy by 2025, {15} and in the US, McKinsey estimate that $2.1 trillion could be added to the country’s GDP simply by achieving pay parity. With the impact of women-led business performance and entrepreneurial growth and job creation, the potential of women in leadership is huge. {15} {17}

Having more women in the boardroom makes far more sense to the economy. But sadly, it would seem this message is not getting across, because not only are women struggling to gain momentum in the corporate world, they’re struggling in politics and in the nonprofit sector.

In a 2012 survey it was revealed that in Asian countries only 10% of women were on executive committees and less than 5% became CEOs. In 2015 only 17% of women were in corporate management posts in the US. The non-profit sector is depressing news with only 21% of women in leadership roles. {2}

In parliament, for every 100 men, only 22 in ministerial and parliamentary roles are held by women. In the US and UK, there are only 34 and 24 women in top roles to every 100 men. {2}

Why does narrowing the gender gaps benefit the world globally? Because in simple terms, we’d make more money. There would be a heart stopping $28 trillion made by the year 2025 or 26% of the incremental global GDP. {2}

Give yourself time to think about that for a minute.

Having an equal amount of both men and women in leadership can help increase performance throughout an organization and can also not only improve the company’s image but improve staff morale. Research carried out for McKinsey’s Women Matter revealed that the top companies would have 15% more financial return if they hired more women.

There is a cost to society as a whole where there are less women in leadership roles. And this is especially true within politics because women have different concerns and priorities, and this can have a positive impact on society. Norway has led the way in increasing the recruitment of female politicians by adopting “voluntary quotas” for all female candidates. Rwanda reserves 24 seats out of 80 exclusively for women. {2} It would seem the rest of the world needs to catch up.

The economic gains for having more women in leadership are clear but until gender gaps are closed and women’s leadership capabilities are allowed to prosper, these gains remain nothing but words and numbers on paper. By not allowing women to prosper, we are all poorer as a result.



As we’ve seen for women to succeed in leadership, better support is needed, this is in terms of better support for mothers and children with flexible working and onsite childcare facilities. We’ve also discussed the need for more support programs for women in leadership making sure they get to the top unhindered and on their own merit. We know that where women can’t work in a traditional work environment because of the inflexible hours they turn to self-employment, starting up their own businesses. However, even here they are hindered by lack of support with little financial help from venture capital.

But things are changing slowly.


How does this support manifest itself?

If you’re going to create a network that supports woman it needs to be able to both enable and inspire women everywhere, helping them enter and remain in a career where leadership is possible, and helping them on the way up as well as once they’re at the top.

Helping women to celebrate successes and provide opportunities is essential, removing barriers and helping them to work towards leadership positions.

There needs to be networks and organizations which are proactive in creating and identifying potential leaders, with mentors to champion women already in leadership, to help them remain in their posts and to remain visible.


Has this already begun and if so where is it being led and by who?

The Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) has been in existence for the past 14 years merging into How Women Lead more recently. Describing themselves as a “champion for promoting diverse women’s voices and propelling leadership forward,” their platform helps provide collaboration, support, solutions, share ideas, and provide monthly forums to discuss pressing issues.

Cass Global Women’s Leadership Program – Their header says, “Seeks to inspire, equip and connect women who are, or want to become resilient, inclusive, ambitious, brave, confident, responsible, authentic and thriving leaders.”

But how does this work? Basically, CBWLP support women in leadership in the corporate and entrepreneurial world, but also in the community, providing mentoring and scholarships.

They build ties with businesses, regulatory bodies and research institutions but focus primarily on women. Their programs help women apply to the Global Women’s Leadership Scholarship to help them access opportunities.

The Cranfield School of Management course – Women as Leaders – providing education and knowledge rather than support but of great value nonetheless. It’s a great course for current leaders so they can tailor their own organization to the support of women in leadership. The course involves working with a group of female leaders exploring some of the challenges they face, the course also offers access to what they describe as an “elite network of female professionals to work with in the future.”

McKinsey – Next Generation Women Leaders. McKinsey

McKinsey describe themselves as a global management firm serving a broad mix of people. They work to help clients make “significant and lasting improvements,” to realize their goals and make improvements. They are hosting the Next Generation Women Leaders in May 2018 in France. Women will be invited from all over Europe, Middle East and Africa and will be required to have either less than 6 years’ experience in work or a BA, MA, MBA or PhD.


What do we know about women in leadership?

What we’ve seen so far is that women have the potential to go far and that with the right support they can make a significant impact on the global economy. In politics they can make a lasting impact on their community raising issues that have a positive outcome for society. We saw how recent surveys and reports have dismal statistics and see that the pay gap between men and women is still as wide as it ever was.

Parental leave seems to be an ongoing issue in most of the western world, with women still expected to bear the brunt of most of it. We saw how for women with children a clear lack of flexibility penalized them from any promotion or career progression. Policies need to be in place that allows flexibility and workable part time hours. Parental leave needs to include men as well as women, taking on their fair share of childcare, giving women more opportunity to progress.

It is clear that for women with children the lack of flexibility penalizes them from promotion and career progression. Policies that allow for much needed flexibility and part time working arrangements helps enormously, ones which promote adequate leave for both men and women. Improved, more affordable childcare facilities are also required, preferably onsite, so both parents can work effectively without worrying constantly about childcare needs.

We also asked what help there was in helping women to achieve their goals and we’ve seen several programs which are in place working towards supporting women in leadership. We’ve also seen that there are building blocks of education in this area, courses which help facilitate learning around women and leadership, giving those from organizations an opportunity to learn, tailoring the learning to help support women in leadership roles. The course also offered network opportunities with female professionals, helping to widen their contacts.


But is it enough?

A better understanding of the many obstacles women face is desperately needed, right across the board, in corporate and also within the public sector to promote understanding and workable solutions.

And when women start to do better, so do the rest of us, because when women are confident, and allowed to thrive, this spills over into communities, into societies and into the economy – and we all benefit. Mentoring and supporting women up the career ladder is worthwhile, because it’s not just about helping women, it’s also about helping ourselves.





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Further reading