This week saw the Hampton-Alexander Review, which is calling for one third of all FTSE leadership positions to be held by women by 2020. ( Why it’s not 50% is a mystery, or maybe not…read on). But an interim report was releasedthis week of the 10 most frequent (flabbergasting)reasons given by Chairmen and CEOs to explain the lack of women in senior positions in their companies. These ‘explanation’ were collected whilstthe report was compiled. To say I was shocked to read this is 2018 is an understanding. When my daughter and I conceived of our book Brain-Savvy Wo+man it was because we recognised she was experiencing many of the same challengesin her career that I had experienced 40 years beforein mine. But we did think some progress had been made just not enough,fast enough. But these excuses are frankly beyond belief. (if only because it shows the arrogance of these CEO’s and Chairs that it’s OK to voice such things). Maybe the best comment came from the chief executive of Business in the Community, Amanda Mackenzie OBE: ‘As you read this list of excuses you might think it’s 1918 not 2018. It reads like a script from a comedy parody but it’s true. Surely, we can now tackle this once and for all. Sit down if you haven’t read the list:
So it’s clear that your career progress won’t be dependent just on your skills and efforts, your confidence, or the support you can access from networks, mentors and sponsors. The advancement of women like yourself will be hugely dependent on the culture of your organisation and your industry. And that culture is largely created by men.
Respondents to Head Heart + Brain’s research believe that middle managers have a disproportionate impact on your career success. As one senior woman said: “If your manager isn’t aware of and interested in the challenges and the nuances of gender stereotypes, it’s better to move on to another department or company.”
Getting buy-in is hard work: men don’t think it’s their problem, they fear judgement by their peers if they speak up, and many claim they don’t know what to say or do.
A report by Diversity Council Australia has found that getting men involved in gender diversity initiatives is critically important because “they are often perceived positively, while the reverse is true for female champions of gender equality.” The Diversity Council report also found there is a major upside: men themselves will personally benefit from progress towards gender equality, in their family relationships as well as in their workplaces and communities. They recommend framing gender equality as a business issue rather than a women’s issue, while at the same time appealing to men’s sense of social justice and fair play.
A report by the international equality action group Catalyst has also found that men who were committed to the idea of fairness were personally concerned about issues of equality, were more aware of gender bias in the workplace and more likely to take action.
But we believe it’s important that women don’t just accept the status quo. If you take whatever action you can to advocate for others, you help to crank up the engine of change. Just as you are benefitting from the efforts of previous generations of women, so you can help to change the landscape for the women – and men who come after you.
Work to win round the hearts and minds of the men you are able to influence at work – your colleagues and team-members – because it’s the right thing to do. As an added bonus you may also find that good practice travels upwards, and your efforts may influence the men who are in a position to decide on your own advancement.
None of these actions are particularly arduous: they don’t cost any money or require any intervention from HR, but you will be impressed by how effective they can be:
Whilst we wait for the business version of the “Inclusion rider”to come to a Board near you, small actions, as well as policy directives, change corporate culture and make organisations more encouraging of women’s progress.
If you would like a little help with your career register for our Brain-savvy Woman Career Management programme https://courses.headheartbrain.com/brain-savvy-woman-career-management-for-women/