The gender agenda - supporting true diversity in senior leadership

The gender agenda - supporting true diversity in senior leadership

Over the last 20 years I have witnessed the growth of technology and its impact on working practices. I once flicked through my rolodex of contacts when following up with clients - safe to say - we have progressed from these methods of data storage.
Within the recruitment industry, I have seen how candidate expectations have moved from an emphasis on financial remuneration, to roles which offer greater flexibility and a good work life balance; and for Generation Z, the desire for roles that maximise technology, and offer stability and possibilities for progression. Indeed, the use of technology in the workplace has never been more relevant, and at Sanderson we are fortunate our working practices enable all staff to work remotely. As I am here, working from home, I would like to share my learnings from the last 20 years, and the knowledge I have gained.

Whilst technology has advanced the way we work, and expectations and career aspirations have diversified, there remains a crucial area within employment that still demands attention.                                                                                                 

The Parker UK Gender Pay Gap Report 2017 and the Hampton-Alexander 2017 review initiated a shifting consensus in how we recruit senior leadership teams. Clients became more switched on to the candidates we presented, and understood the need for supporting gender diversity in senior leadership teams. By and large, our aim and objective at Sanderson is to provide a shortlist of relevant senior level candidates with a 1:3 gender ratio of women to men – taking into account factors such as industry and geographic location which can make a 50:50 division challenging if remote working isn’t an option. However, I have dealt with many tier one banks who maintain a blanket 50:50 gender split requirement for any leadership role that we go to market with.

Current figures estimate that the FTSE350 is on track to meet the government’s 33% target of women in senior leadership roles, by the end of 2020. A truly fantastic achievement given where we were not so long ago. However, there is a further consideration to be made when assessing the diversity of executive teams, and that is one of social cultural representation.

There are roughly 2.9 million women in the UK who identify as Black, Asian or from a Minority Ethnic background, and for these women, ethnicity is seen as a greater barrier than their gender. Of the 543 women surveyed in the Different Women, Different Places II Executive Summary, “They felt that white women were perceived more positively, had more opportunities in the workplace and that the gender agenda was led by, and focused on, white women.”

There are a multitude of barriers that exist to career progression, such as non-inclusive company cultures and limited access to development opportunities.

How do we work to resolve this issue?

Much like solving the technology shortage of the future - actions must be present now. As my colleague James Corcoran recently asserted - following a learning table he held with the BAME women in cyber security charity, Seidea - there are three key areas of focus for ensuring a truly diverse workforce that is representative of ALL women and society.

Education, Empowerment and Enabling.

By these means, we can ensure that the executive boards of the businesses which will carry us through this global pandemic and into the future, are authentically representative of society and genuinely diverse.

Working as the Head of Practice for Sanderson’s Executive division means that I have the opportunity to meet with clients to understand their business and needs, and then establish a solution – by sourcing the right candidate for them. Sanderson is built on partnership, and during these times, that ethos seems all the more pertinent.

Reach out, if you would like to discuss executive search, gender diversity or inclusivity in the workplace. I will be happy to have a chat.

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