Are you asking the right questions

31st Jul 2014

Update on Gender balance and the questions your organization needs to be asking itself.

The Lord Davis Report in 2011 highlighted the need to have more diverse boards; at that time only 12.5% were women. He set a target of 25% by 2015. With one year to go we have 20.7% in the FTSE 100 and the last all male board in the FTSE 250 now has a female NED.

So what has happened in that time? Well boards have made an effort to have more women, but this has mainly been achieved by recruiting non-executive directors (NED’s).  The number of executive directors in The FTSE 100 is only 6.9% which is very few female role models, for the women in these organisations to look up to. These NED's will no doubt help the boards that they work with make better strategic decisions, but my concern is that the culture will not be affected, as although they are present at board meetings they are not involved in the day to day leadership of the organization, which is still dominated by white middle aged men. We may well hit the target of 25% in 18 months time, but will we have changed the culture in these organisations? I very much doubt it.

Some organisations are making great strides to be more female friendly and recognize that the all male way of working designed in the 19th century is no longer fit for purpose for the modern generation. With a more agile work force these businesses are more attuned to the needs of the consumer who in many cases are predominantly female. We have 4 female CEO's in the FTSE 100 and 15 companies with 30% or more female directors, this is definitely a sign of progress, but we need more. 

However when The Davis Report in 2014 reviewed the board reports of the FTSE 100 only 30% demonstrated clear policies or measures aimed at increasing the number of women in senior management. Without a sustainable and strategic plan for improvement we are playing a numbers game rather than creating change that will impact future generations.

Unless this is addressed the attrition of women from the workforce of many of our big companies will continue. It is assumed that the women leaving are doing so to have children, but this is not necessarily the case. The fact that these women are not recognized for their talents, hard work and innate female leadership strengths means they leave to find an employer that will recognize them and support their career development. And even if the women have left to have children, these companies should be working harder to help them return to so that their skills are not lost.

It is predicted that there will be a shortage of talent in the next few decades and organisations will be fighting over a smaller pool of talent.

It is therefore crucially important that they start to protect the talent they have and work hard to create a culture that is attractive to the talent of the future. Generation Y members (born 1977-1994)are looking for more meaningful work with a good work life balance, old cultures need to change to attract and keep this group. What is good for the women will also benefit the whole workforce of the future.

So, there is much for companies still to do, and we believe the emphasis needs to switch from the board -room, to the talent pipeline. It is not about fixing the women, or about blaming the men, we need to work together to create gender balanced, inclusive organisations.

 The questions that your company needs to be  asking itself.

  • What percentage of women do we have at every level of the organization?
  • What will this look like in 5 years time?
  • What is the profile of our customer/consumer or client base?
  • Is this reflected in our workforce?
  • Why do women leave?
  • Do we have an adequate leavers interview process in place?
  • Do we have a returners programme?
  • What do women really think about our organisation?
  • Do they feel valued and appreciated?
  • What are the leadership traits that we reward?
  • Do we measure and reward the behaviors that create an inclusive culture?
  • Do we have agile working practices in place for all employees?
  • What is our working culture?
  • What type of culture would suit a more diverse workforce?
  • How many positive female role models do we have?
  • Are we trying to "fix" the talented women or are we supporting them to get the promotions they deserve?
  • What is our strategy to attract, retain and engage our female talent? 

If you would like help to create the right answers speak to Beacon Women the experts in creating gender balanced organisations.


Tara Zutshi 07816 908 662

Joanna Barker 07786 685 849

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Are you asking the right questions