Male-dominated culture - the barrier to women's success? - Business Works
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Male-dominated culture - the barrier to women's success?

Carol Rosati, co-founder of Inspire New research among over 600 Directors, CEOs and senior executives finds that male-dominated corporate cultures are the biggest barrier to women reaching the board. One-quarter (23%) of respondents claimed this was the single biggest barrier to progression and over half (52%) believe that todayís corporate cultures are dramatically reducing the length of time women are prepared stay and develop their career with their employer.

"The Balancing Act: a study of how to balance the talent pipeline in business", undertaken by the Inspire board network and executive search firm Harvey Nash, also finds that the benefits of an improved culture wonít just be felt by women; the gains for employers to a different approach across the whole workforce are significant. Sixty per cent of all senior executives in the survey say their productivity would be increased if their organisations played a more active role in helping them balance their work and non-work lives; the majority by 10 to 25 per cent. Well over half of respondents (58%) say their productivity would rise by 10 or 25 per cent if work fitted better with life outside the office.

To tackle this counterproductive approach to the workplace, women respondents cited an improved culture (52%), flexible working (36%) and the removal of unconscious bias in the workplace (23%) as the most effective ways to persuade them to stay longer. Men agreed with the top two, but cited better investment in technology, such as video conferencing or laptops for remote working, as their third choice (30%).

"Organisations are failing to recognise that in todayís world, employees of all genders want different ways of working," said Carol Rosati co-founder of Inspire and director of Harvey Nash. "But often the bias that creates this male dominated culture is unintentional and unconscious. Without realising it, senior managers often celebrate presenteeism and reward those employees who they have the most immediate access to. A more enlightened approach to managing all employees will help re-balance the gender in the talent pipeline, but also create a more productive workforce and improve retention. These initiatives need not be expensive, but the onus is on businesses to change the way they operate to achieve these gains."

The report also reveals that there appears to be little appetite for change among organisations. Over half of respondents felt it would take at least ten years before women make up one-third of private sector boards and over 16% thought it would take more than 15 years.

The survey found that just a third (34%) of Boards accurately reflect the social make-up of their organisationís customer base, with 60% feeling they do not. Just under two-thirds (60%) felt the single most important reason to ensure women reach senior and executive levels is because diverse executive committees are stronger.

"The kind of activities that are seen to help an individualís career, such as additional networking opportunities, social events, or staying longer in the office, are harder to participate in for anyone with responsibilities outside of work," commented Alexa Bailey, co-founder of Inspire and consultant at Harvey Nash. "But if a different approach to the workplace is adopted, everyone is equal. A diverse board is a stronger board, better able to identify and take advantage of commercial opportunities. By letting too many women opt out of corporate life halfway up the career ladder, organisations risk disconnecting with their customers, weakening their competitive edge and missing out on further opportunities. This isnít a talent issue, itís simply a bottom line business issue."

Just one in nine felt their organisation was successful at retaining, developing and promoting women up the food chain. Despite this, the overwhelming feeling is that gender quotas are not the answer; 67% in the survey are against the introduction of these and more are in favour of targets.

A full copy of the report can be obtained from the Inspire website at:

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