The spotlight has been firmly focused on the subject of equality and diversity recently. Numerous reports from the government and think tanks across the country are proclaiming that the gender pay gap is still stubbornly in place, and that women are still underrepresented in senior leadership positions.
To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day (March 8th), employee engagement specialists Best Companies spoke to multiple women at the top of their industry. In this unique report, entitled ‘Closing the Gender Gap: How to Retain Senior Women in Business’, Best Companies gathered their thoughts on equality and diversity in the workplace, and what is really needed for game-changing progress to happen.
Numerous studies have found that women can be less confident than men when putting themselves forward for jobs, such as a Hewlett-Packard internal report in 2014, which found that men will apply for a job when they are 60% qualified, as opposed to women who believed they must be 100% qualified.
Kate Gaskin, currently the director and founder of Right Angle Events, believes that a lack of confidence can have a huge impact:
“Overall I think self-belief is a tough one for some women. Women are less self-promoting, less likely to ask for a pay rise and more self-deprecating in applications. Companies being aware of that can get them to see that they can be as good as another individual who is more self-promoting. I don’t believe we should have quotas, positive discrimination or female-only sections, but we can encourage application, look for rising stars and dangle things in front of them.”
2. Hire from within for senior roles
When looking for people to fill positions in senior management, many companies will automatically look for candidates externally. Organisational hierarchy, plus this external search, can be damaging for retention across the board. Career mapping and plans for progression have been clearly identified as a key factor for improving engagement and retention, and this is something that Hayley Smith, founder of Boxed Out PR, feels is incredibly important:
“Businesses often have good intentions to diversify their companies, and create higher positions for women, however there doesn’t always seem to be enough policy in place to make it happen.
“Career mapping from an employer can add value and loyalty, and create equal opportunities. Mapping can remove the chances that women will not be aware of opportunities suited to them.”
3. Prioritise mentoring
Having someone to look up to can be incredibly advantageous, but the benefits of having a mentor in your career are seriously under-publicised to people at all levels. For women in particular, the notorious lack of other women in senior leadership roles doesn’t serve as much inspiration.
Angelica Malin, Editor-in-Chief of About Time Magazine, feels that if more women are seen in roles such as these, then others will be motivated to follow:
“One of the best things that companies could do is to actually get senior women from within their own companies to talk, because often you go to speeches or presentations and it’s very male-focused. Often when you go to career days hosted by big brands or big companies trying to recruit people, there’s still a lot of guys present. So I think one of the best things a company could do is get senior-level women who are already within the company to go and meet people.
“I think that would show the company itself to be quite favourable towards women, and for me it would encourage me to work there.”