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Cath Everett

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Positive action gets support to smash glass ceiling


Just under three quarters of women believe that they continue to face barriers to top-level promotion in the UK compared with only 38% of men who acknowledge that a glass ceiling still exists.

The survey of 3,000 members of the Institute of Leadership and Management also revealed that some 47% of females compared with only 24% of males back quotas to ensure that women gain senior management and board-level positions. ‘Positive action’ received broader-based support, however, with 62% of women backing the concept compared with 42% of men.
The report entitled ‘Ambition and Gender at Work’ was released only days before Lord Davies, a former banker who is chairing an inquiry into gender equality in the boardroom, is set to publish his recommendations.
Lord Davies is expected to propose voluntary targets indicating that women should comprise a fifth of all FTSE 350 board members by 2013, rising to a quarter by 2015. But he has already suggested that he is resistant to the idea of legally-binding quotas unless such targets fail.
Whatever action is taken, however, the ILM report found that 36% of women believe their gender has actively hindered their attempts to climb the corporate ladder, with the figure rising to 44% among females aged over 45.
Penny de Valk, the Institute’s chief executive, said that the pressure on many women to combine childcare with their own career aspirations was “part of the cocktail” and if large employers wished to nurture the talent of their best female workers, they needed to start challenging some of the unwritten rules of what senior management roles looked like.
But the survey also suggested widespread unhappiness with employers’ failure to promote women to more senior positions as well as mixed views on how to tackle the issue.
“The research reveals a split in opinion on how best to deal with the glacial progress the UK is making towards gender equality,” de Valk said. “Quotas may be seen as the quickest solution and some countries, notably Norway, have introduced them with some success. However, although they drive compliance, they do not necessarily drive a commitment to the more fundamental changes that are required.”

One Response

  1. Female training programmes to help break that ceiling

    I read this article with interest, as it appears there is still misunderstanding about what quotas or establishing positive action programmes can actually achieve.
    If quotas are introduced, the women taking up these positions on boards still need to have displayed the necessary skills to perform the board role – the position would not be given purely on the basis that the candidate is a woman.
    What this would achieve is more diversity on the board, with less opportunity for selecting board members on the basis that they ‘look and seem like me’.
    Positive action programmes can help in a variety of ways, and one of the main ways is to help women in business (women like me…) realise their worth and learn how to promote themselves.
    A lack of self belief or confidence on the part of a woman can sabotage any progression within a business, even though that individual has a number of outstanding business skills.
    In addressing this issue, so that all women have the confidence and belief that they can progress within any firm, and know how to promote their excellent skills and abilities, we may begin to see the boards of many of the top businesses change quite dramatically.

    Karen Murphy
    Muika Leadership
    Leadership Development for Women


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