Diversity Matters – The Value of Gender Diversity in Management Recruitment
Increased gender diversity in management recruitment can lead to greater innovation and wealth. A company’s success is largely down to the decisions made by its leaders, which is why the makeup of the leadership team is crucial. A diverse set of views increases innovation, helps to retain talent and builds group trust, while research suggests that diversity improves the financial bottom line.
Article originally published for International Women’s Day 2019
The next few years will see high numbers of baby boomers leave the workplace, leaving gaps in leadership from executive to manager level. Organisations that don’t seek to increase diversity in management teams by engaging women for these leadership roles are overlooking a large opportunity. This could lead to challenges in management recruitment and retaining talent, while risking employee disengagement.
The next few years will see high numbers of baby boomers leave the workplace, leaving gaps in leadership from executive to manager level. Organisations that don’t seek to increase diversity in management teams by engaging women for these roles are overlooking a large opportunity.
McKinsey research from 2017 reveals many companies are struggling to represent women fairly in top management. A study of 233 companies across 9 western European countries showed that although the majority of companies have implemented initiatives to increase gender diversity at the top, many have yet to see significant results. The findings revealed that the companies that had made progress were twice as likely to have gender diversity among the top three priorities on their agendas.
‘Male dominated’ industries
It’s still common to see fewer women in C – level positions in industries that have traditionally been male dominated, such as oil & gas, engineering and construction. Shirley Hursthouse, Director of psd’s Property & Construction executive recruitment practice, has been recruiting for 20 years into the house building sector.
“Over the last 20 years I have seen huge changes in gender balance in this sector. The construction industry was predominantly a very male orientated industry – when I began my career a female Site Manager was unheard of. Clients now have diversity and inclusiveness at the forefront of their agenda. Many clients are requesting for more women on shortlists, which is fantastic but it’s not always possible – unfortunately in some disciplines women are still underrepresented, such as in technical & construction functions. However in sales, commercial and land functions there does now seem to be a balance of men and women.”
Mentoring and role models to encourage diversity
Often a contributing factor to career progression for women is the support of a mentor, whether formal or informal. Mentoring can have a significant impact on helping women feel more connected and engaged in their workplace. We spoke to Alex Baskerville who ran her own consulting firm alongside obtaining her degree. When she came to London and began her career in a well-respected recruitment firm, she found the lack of female leaders alarming.
“I was struck by the limited presence of senior female role models. When the business was sold and I left shortly after, it dawned on me my environment had severely lacked diversity of thought leadership based on an entirely male leadership team – I was the only woman. This realisation was in part how I came to join psd. Having a role model in our female Executive Chair gave me someone to identify with. Diversity is often at the top of agendas, and yet I believe by the time we hit executive grades the horse has bolted.”
I was struck by the limited presence of senior female role models. When the business was sold and I left shortly after, it dawned on me my environment had severely lacked diversity of thought leadership based on an entirely male leadership team – I was the only woman.
This is not due to a lack of ambition. Hays 2016 Gender Diversity Report finds that almost as many women (64%) as men (65%) are aiming for leadership positions. Unconscious bias has a large role to pay in why more women don’t make it to the top level. Women are more likely to encounter resistance and isolation as they move up the ranks. Alex believes that society and education has played a large role in our unbalanced workforce. “Reshma Saujani, an American lawyer, politician, author and founder of Girls Who Code, famously stated ‘We are raising our boys to be brave, but our girls to be perfect.’ To increase diversity, we need to be empowering and investing more in our young people. I was fortunate to have a great role model in my mother, but I never had a female headmaster, the top job always seemed to go to a man. How can we address inequalities which persist into the workplace when they are conditioned so young?”
Often a contributing factor to women not reaching the top line is motherhood. The role of women in the workplace has developed, but there is still far to go. There is so much more that can be done to support women in getting back into the workforce after maternity leave, such as on site childcare and remote working possibilities, but also understanding the challenges and discrimination that can come with being a working mother.
Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that 77% of working mothers have experienced discrimination in the workplace. The research also shows that up to 54,000 women a year in the UK are pushed into junior roles with less chance of promotion. To address these issues, companies need to better understand what challenges women face when returning from maternity leave, so that they can be supported when transitioning back into their career.
Female representation on the board and in leadership roles has progressed, and companies are recognising that a diverse skill set is a valuable asset, while research suggests that diversity improves the financial bottom line. Gender diversity is an important factor for millennial job seekers, so getting the balance right is crucial when it comes to attracting the best talent on the market. By embedding diversity and inclusion into company values, providing mentors and advocating for change, we can welcome the next generation of leaders into workplaces where women and men are represented equally in positions of power and in decision making.