In today’s high-powered business world, women make up nearly half the workforce* but when it comes to holding top management positions – men outnumber the women significantly. For example, according to a 2014 study by the Center for American Progress (CFAP), women hold only 9% of management positions in IT and account for only 14% of senior management positions at Silicon Valley startups – just 10% more than technical jobs. In the financial services industry, females make up 54.2% of the labor force but are only 12.4% of executive officers and 18.3% of board directors. This can be very challenging for companies to maintain a gender balance throughout their organization and provide a clear path for growth to women as they gain experience. Women also find they need to work even harder than their male peers to combat an organizations’ tendency to promote and recognize men at the more senior levels.
Recruiting Perceptions of Top Female Professionals
Dr. Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School has done extensive research on issues of gender inequality and points out that there is a perception in the market that search firms aren’t providing companies enough female candidates, when in fact her research proves that isn’t true. “The bottom line is that when women have made it to C-suite level, inequality occurs much earlier in the chain.” Her research uncovered the following:
- When executive search firms hired – the number of women appointed almost doubled vs. firms hiring directly
- For women who are hired internally (through promotion) they hired no women at all vs executive firms who place 12.5% of women in jobs
The Importance of Pipeline Management
In order to address the problem and help women expand and grow in their roles – not only good for women, but loyal employees provide greater productivity to a company overall – it is essential to manage and constantly review your talent pipeline. Monitoring your internal employee pipeline consistently will help your organization focus on the importance of adding more women at several levels of the organization from managers to catapult into senior roles.
Tips for Reversing the Trend
Here are some ways companies can reverse the trend of not having enough female professionals at the higher levels of an organization:
- Bring awareness and understanding to top-line executives - their ability to acknowledge any gender bias is critical for creating a culture of gender balance and establishing a healthy work environment.
- Hiring managers at every level need to be educated about bias, including the gender differences and what that may look like in interviews. Help them stay up-to-date about statistically where men and women excel organizationally (it’s not where you would think).
- Formalize a program to recruit more women - look at your organization from the standpoint of what is attractive to women, how are you promoting yourself, what is your message to the outside world, are your recruiters trained effectively to understand gender differences, etc. Don’t assume this type of awareness or knowledge is permeated through your organization.
*2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics – 73,510,000 (46.8%)