December 10 2013, London - At a launch event held in London today, The 30% Club’s ‘Balancing the Pyramid’ Group, business psychology consultancy YSC, and professional services firm KPMG released the first stage of their new research aimed at understanding the gender profile of UK companies. The study has debunked some of the myths about how women progress to the very top and aims to give practical and constructive advice to companies on how to update their gender intelligence.
To date, a cross section of companies across the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 have been surveyed, totalling over 450,000 employees, both male and female. KPMG’s initial findings are encouraging and show that there is on average 21% female representation at surveyed FTSE 100 organisations at Executive Committee level, with 25% of organisations achieving 30% female representation. However, KPMG also found that a man starting his career with a large FTSE 100 UK company is still 4.5 times more likely to make it to the Executive Committee than his female counterpart.
While the full analysis and report will not be finished until early next year the initial findings from YSC suggest the need to update our expectations about the similarities and differences in the pattern of men’s and women’s careers. For instance:
- Overall, men and women are equally ambitious. However, women’s ambition is a slow burn. Women tend not to show the same level of ambition early but this exponentially lifts by the time they reach executive levels. So companies need to consistently reassess career options for women, particularly when male peers are more overt about aspiring over a longer range.
- The rhythm of women’s careers appears to be different to their male counterparts. Women seem to make more lateral moves than men over the same time span with a mid-life career surge. This can result in senior female executives having broader experience than senior male executives with implications for their selection onto Boards.
- Although nearly twice as many women than men work under formal flexible working arrangements, women are sensitised to the promotion-limiting implications of such arrangements. Where possible, women prefer individual autonomy to create a working pattern that accommodates the demands of their lives. An intrinsically challenging role and the personal support of direct line management was found to be their preferred operating mode.
- Authenticity is key to women’s leadership. By the time women reach executive committee level, they are far more comfortable being themselves as opposed to self-managing to meet gender expectations. So diverse executive teams perform better when every leader can be themselves.
The study also revealed a shift in how male and female leadership is currently valued within corporate environments. The vast majority of positive leadership behaviour is viewed as identical in men and women. Some stubborn pockets of stereotyping remain. Women are more frequently described as providing values-based leadership, while men continue to be rated more frequently for their commercial acumen and logical-rational approach to problem-solving.
The study’s key takeaways for companies, while still in the early stages of findings, are constructive. An environment for ‘leaning in’ is relatively low cost to create. The quality of line-management proved a bigger boost to women’s commitment than formal development programmes, sponsoring, mentoring and executive coaching. Women in the study were clear that transparency would be helpful for them to see when male and female executives at the top were balancing multiple priorities in their life, ie grappling with the same challenges as women lower down the pipeline.
Minister for Women and Equalities Maria Miller said: “This research provides a great insight into women’s experiences in the workplace. It goes without saying that men and women are different. The workplace was designed by men for men but times have changed and if we want women to be able to fulfil their potential – we need to modernise the workplace. The Government is playing its part but this is also about a culture shift and we need to support and encourage employers to put the right measures in place: nurture talent, create more inclusive workplaces, and drive greater transparency.”
Helena Morrissey CBE, CEO of Newton Investment Management and Founder of the 30% Club said: “Men and women are different - equally intelligent but we behave differently and are motivated by different things. This new research gives more depth to the intuitive argument that balanced teams perform better, and gives companies specific actionable ideas to improve their management of all talent – regardless of gender”.
For further information, please contact:
Gay Collins, MHP Communications +44 20 3128 8582 / 07798626282
Toto Reissland-Burghart, MHP Communications + 44 203 128 8100
Jamie Brookes, BNY Mellon +44 20 7163 2146/07769900417