How to Break The Glass Ceiling in 4 Easy Steps

Our previous article on the gender pay gap looked at the issue of pay disparity still prevalent between men and women in the corporate sector. We focused mainly on the potential solutions and what candidates and recruitment firms can do to ensure pay scale parity.

The glass ceiling

In this article we look at another issue that stems from the same underlying problem of gender discrimination – the glass ceiling. This term has been in existence for over forty years and essentially refers to an invisible barrier that prevents women from rising to the top in a corporate environment. The sheer scale of the problem is evidenced from the fact that the glass ceiling shows no sign of improvement after decades of concerted efforts from various quarters.

Although discrimination exists at all levels, the glass ceiling is especially evident at the very top and women continue to be under-represented in CxO level positions as well as board positions. This makes it even harder to implement top down solutions. In Europe for example, only about 20% of Non-Executive Directors in listed companies are women and the European Commission has set itself a target quota of at least 40% by 2020.

Figures just released from Cranfield University describe a “woeful situation” in a significant drop for women occupying FTSE 250 Board positions and numbers remaining the same for FTSE 100 companies.

Advertise roles

The lack of available talent is one reason often given for not appointing women to the board or other top leadership positions.  However, what is much more likely is that companies are simply not looking or trying hard enough. Many senior level positions are not advertised and are filled through an “old boys network” from the current male leadership making it harder for women to break in.

Talent Pools

There have been various initiatives to address the problem. For example, there are a number of pan-European talent pools of qualified women board members. Companies can tap into these pools and select candidates based on the required skill set. Recruitment firms can play an important role here as they inevitably have access to a vast pool of qualified candidates.

Board level training

Another way to address the “supply side” of the problem is by providing leadership and board level training to qualified women candidates. Such executive courses offered by top Business Schools not only help foster the right attitude but serve as key networking platforms as well.

Creating a critical mass

Clearly however, the key to solving the problem of discrimination at senior levels and for real change to occur is to create a critical mass of women at the very top which then has a snowball effect. Large corporations are designed in a way that values trickle from the top down. Ensuring better representation of women on boards would likely have the desired affect throughout the whole organisation.  Having a token female presence at the top is never going to be very effective.

Studies have found that having at least three women on the board leads to the issues faced by women being addressed in an effective manner and to better financial performance due to the diversity benefit.

Conclusion

With market forces failing to resolve the problem organically and the UK government looking to miss its target of 33% women on FTSE 350 companies boards by 2020, perhaps now is the time for government to proactively implement a formal systems of quotas as adopted successfully across Europe.

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Our Renaix Guide to Recruitment for Audit and Finance Professionals provides information on trends in the industry.

Similar posts: Here’s What Really Matters in Diversity in Educational Backgrounds, Mind the Gender Pay Gap – The Important Role of Recruitment Firms, Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know.

17-07-2018

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