Diversity – Top jobs still ‘impossible’ for many women

by Cathryn Newbery, People Management, CIPD, 26 January 2015

Diversity in the workplace lags behind shifting public attitudes

Are we doing enough to help women achieve their potential at work? The answer, in short, appears to be ‘no’. Although steady progress is being made towards achieving 25 per cent female representation in the UK’s FTSE 100 boardrooms ahead of Lord Davies’ deadline in just over 10 months’ time, a new report and practical guide from O2 and the CIPD has revealed that organisations’ efforts to encourage women to take up senior leadership roles are having little impact.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of the 2,000 women surveyed by the telecoms firm said they believed women don’t occupy enough senior positions in their company, with another 48 per cent saying they believed all decision-makers in their companies were male.

Breaking the Boardroom: A guide for British businesses on how to support female leaders of the future reports that 17 per cent believed it was “impossible” for a woman to reach a senior management role in their business.

Although more than a quarter (28 per cent) dreamed of being a chief executive, and a further 35 per cent aimed to reach board level, nearly a third (32 per cent) said their careers had failed to live up to expectations. Poor line management, a lack of training and development programmes, and negative office politics were all cited as obstacles to progression.

Crises of faith also threaten to derail women’s progress up the ranks, with more than a third (36 per cent) saying they lacked the confidence to ask for a pay rise or promotion.

“While the diversity debate has moved on outside of the office, not enough women are actually seeing this progress at work,” says Ann Pickering, O2’s HR director and a board member. “This jointly produced guide will help businesses support the talented women in their organisation, so they are able to reach the highest levels without the need for artificial quotas.”

“There’s been genuine progress towards government targets to improve boardroom diversity, but too much has been skewed towards non-executive positions,” says Dianah Worman, CIPD public policy adviser for diversity. “We’re calling on all parties in the forthcoming election to commit to a new voluntary target for at least 20 per cent of executive director positions in FTSE 100 firms to be filled by women by 2020.”

Read the Breaking the Boardroom guide at: bit.ly/CIPDBtB