Breaking the Glass Ceiling for Female Executives

The fact that women still face many obstacles in reaching the most senior levels of their chosen profession was recently highlighted in a report from 30% Club.

30% Club is a campaign group that launched in 2010 and aims to increase the proportion of women on FTSE-100 boards to at least 30%. When the campaign launched, this figure stood at just 12.5% but has since increased to around 27%.

Female Progression Linked to Management Style

According to the report, one reason for the chronic shortage of senior female executives can be linked to how people are managed at work.

Researchers questioned both men and women about how they work with their report/manager and uncovered gender differences that particularly affect women’s progression at the mid-career stage. Female managers are apparently twice as likely to be personally involved in developing their people, while male managers are three times more likely to outsource developing their report.

“Managers focus on specific opportunities for their male reports, who are steered towards deepening their skillset and getting the critical experience they need for promotion,” explained Rachel Short, who co-led the research. “This contrasts with how managers develop their female reports, who are encouraged to adapt their approach and to broaden their professional experience to open up a range of career options.”

“Whilst it’s true that women receive support from their manager on raising their profile through their professional relationships, men are being put forward for CV-boosting experiences, such as MBAs and secondments,” she added.

Development Declines with Seniority

The research also found that development declines with seniority. Whilst junior managers work closely with their reports and provide day to day feedback and advice, executives and senior managers spend very little time managing or developing their people. Time spent with a manager drops from 29% for female reports and 24% for male reports, to just 5% for both genders.

“Things get tough at the top where senior managers are not actively readying their reports for the next level of seniority,” commented Pavita Cooper, another co-leader of the research. “Couple that with the fact that it is men who get better preparation for specific roles by their managers, and we’re faced with a group of women left lacking both the managerial support and the concrete know-how to step into senior executive roles. We need to start pulling women through for promotion much earlier on so that we can establish a deep pipeline of female executive talent.”

Female Progression in Financial Services

Financial services has been targeted as one of the sectors where greater efforts are needed to improve gender diversity at senior levels, after it was identified that women progress too slowly or even end up leaving the sector completely. A review conducted last year found that in UK financial services female representation was around 23% on boards, but only 14% on executive committees.

The review led to the Government launching the Women in Finance Charter, which asks financial firms to commit to four industry actions to build the female talent pipeline for leadership positions.

On the first anniversary of the Charter’s launch, the Government announced that 122 firms had already signed up. Of these, 77 financial services firms have committed to have at least 30% women in senior roles by 2021 and 23 firms have committed to a 50/50 gender split in senior roles by 2021.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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