Alison May – Talent Consultant, Global Supply Chain and Logistics

The Mad Men days may be well behind us, but women are still struggling to break into the executive realm in organisations across the globe. And it seems that we’re missing a trick – it’s believed that a greater female representation in senior management roles heightens creativity, innovation and, more importantly customer engagement, thus enhancing organisational performance and profitability.

A recent international study conducted has revealed an alarming shortage of women in senior roles. There was more than 600 senior staff members surveyed in executive director, non-executive director and other senior roles in a number of companies.

It revealed a number of reasons for lack of female representation in senior roles. The majority of respondents cited a desire for greater work-life balance, unconscious recruitment bias, lack of professional networking opportunities and office politics as the main reasons why women begin to step off the corporate ladder.

But is this pattern set to change? Not in the near future, according to a majority of respondents in the study. Asked what it would take to achieve greater gender equality on organisational boards (at least 30 per cent board members and above), around 20 per cent of participants said it may take at least 15 years for that to occur.

It is proposed that in order to increase gender equality in senior roles, companies should offer networking opportunities for women, provide ease of access back into the corporate world after maternity leave, promote flexible working policies for male and female staff, and have an unbiased approach to recruitment and succession planning.

One of the interviewees, asserts that “Businesses need to value the skill sets that women hold because they are increasingly important in the workplace. To retain these skills they should make it easier for women to get back into work after taking time out. Women don’t lack ambition they lack choices.” They also suggested that men should have the option to take time out and re-join the business at a later date.