Last year, the percentage of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 dropped to 4%, and while the BBC’s recent gender pay gap revelations have captured interest and dominated the headlines, the issue of the gender gap in leadership should be as pressing.
Women face barriers in the workplace and the glass ceiling is a conspicuous feature of corporate culture.
There are limitations to how women can advance in an organisation, such as childbirth, but this also tends to reflect an unconscious bias, where there is an unspoken assumption that there is a point beyond which a woman cannot progress.
Is There Sufficient Support?
The culture is shifting, with more women wanting to return to work following maternity leave, and more men willing to take on a greater share of hands-on parenting.
However, for these attitudes to manifest themselves in changes to work patterns requires support from employers.
Corporate culture and systemic failures combine to create a condition where women can develop their own self-limiting beliefs about leadership. Combating this requires a conscious, organisational effort.
For a greater proportion of women to attain leadership positions requires more flexible working conditions, alongside proactive approaches to training, development and mentoring.
Closing the gender gap means making it an official priority, putting gender balance on the agenda and putting clear initiatives in place.
It’s Not Just About Women
Equality in the workplace is an issue for everyone, women and men. Modern organisations and businesses need to be adaptable and flexible to meet future challenges, and they should reflect the wider culture.
A fully engaged workforce is a crucial requirement, and this, therefore, includes women alongside men. If the culture allows for a gender gap then it is unlikely to fully engage everyone working in it.
To close the gender gap means showing decisive leadership and not simply palming the issue off on HR departments for them to sort out.
It must come from the top down as a priority, where people are accountable for tackling the issue, empowering women at board level to be decision-makers and ensuring that things change throughout an organisation.
The gender gap is real. Sometimes it’s complex, but it needs fixing. Should we be concerned with how we all will be working in the future?
If you need HR assistance in closing the gender gap in your organisation, please contact us.