Inclusion in the Boardroom
Gender diversity, or rather the lack of it, at the top of organisational hierarchies is a hotly debated topic, with only 15% of global corporate board members being women (Lee, Marshall, Rallis & Moscardi, 2015). Although there is a target to reach 33% female board representation by 2020, at the current rate this will not be met by FTSE 300 corporations until 2027.
This is despite the clear benefits gender diversity brings, such as the significant positive relationship between the percentage of women on an organisation’s board, and the company value (Carter, Simkins & Simpson, 2003). This lack of women at board level, despite the benefits of having a diverse boardroom, provided the backdrop to our research into what women bring to the boardroom.
In our research, we interviewed 44 high potential women, who worked at CEO to CEO-2 level, to consider what propelled them to the top as well as considering any obstacles they faced to help in future. The women interviewed often identified a pivotal person who aided in their success as well as critical moments in their life that lead to their success. In this way, women’s journeys are non-linear and differ on an individual basis. Without these pivotal people in their life, the women interviewed stated they would have been unaware that progressing to board level was possible, so identifying potential early is important.
Every female leader interviewed raised challenges which they faced to progress up the organisational hierarchy, with 60% identifying significant challenges that they had overcome in order to get to their current position.
In our research, we explored the importance of social capital especially at more senior levels, and how these can affect board level appointments. This is also interesting in terms of the number of appointments that females will need to meet in the next few years in order to reach the government target. Women have been found to be at a disadvantage when it comes to having social capital, due to the ‘old boys club’ mentality identified in our research. This network often excluded women, meaning they were less likely to progress as readily as men.
Women also faced issues maintaining a healthy work-life balance, as well as attending networking events due to the societal expectation being that they should stay at home to look after their family, whereas the same does not apply to males. These challenges faced by women can be considered in future to ensure women do progress the top, by supporting women through mentoring and sponsorship schemes, as well as ensuring an objective and transparent promotional process so that the future female leaders are able to reach their potential.
Interestingly, the differences between male and female decision styles and strengths were only slight. Similar to males, females were found to be future and results focused. A trend found throughout was that the strength of Modest was the only strength out of 30 not identified within our C-suite male and female contributors. Strengths ranged across the population with all demonstrating different strengths, showing the importance of energisers being unique and how they help different individuals to succeed.
In terms of decision styles, our research found very few significant differences in decision styles between men and women. The differences found were in pace, facts and thought, with women taking an apparent approach, a more rapid decision-making process, and a more intuitive rather than an objective approach.
Finally, the importance of self-belief was explored, with almost half the women interviewed stating that they relied on their self-belief to excel them through their career.
By understanding these challenges faced and educating organisations on the importance of inclusion, we can implement strategies to enable the future female leaders. For example, this can be through implementing a development program and identifying potential early, to enable females to see that progressing to board level is possible.
To find out more about our latest research, please contact the Zircon office to get access to our latest white paper ‘Inclusion in the Boardroom’ for the detailed findings.