Equal career progression is a fact now – isn’t it?

It seems not. Cast an eye over the senior management team of most organisations and it’s usually the same old story: if not all-male, then almost all male.

This is supported by a 2017 report from financial advisory firm Grant Thornton, which revealed that the numbers of women in senior management inched up by just 1% from 2016 to 25% in 2017. It also found that the number of organisations with no senior women whatsoever has risen to 34%.

It seems shocking that, in 2017, over a third of businesses have no women driving the most senior-level business decisions. Why is this?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer. We can speculate that fewer women want the stress and pressure of a senior management role and therefore choose not to apply for promotions into board-level positions. This is, of course, true of men as well. The life of the C-suite is certainly not for everyone, and not everyone will be capable.

But if we dig a little deeper, perhaps there are women and men who seek career progression but feel unable to, as the life of a senior executive isn’t flexible enough or compatible with raising a family.

Redefining leadership

And then there’s the question of what exactly a leader should be. UK CEO of Grant Thornton, Sacha Romanovitch argues that: “Women are looking for a more fundamental shift in what leadership looks like and what is expected of people in senior leadership positions.”

She describes the typical ‘hero model’ – a perfect individual who is at the beck and call of shareholders, attending endless meetings. Other, more collaborative, less all-consuming types of leadership are often just not an option.

Plus, there’s the stereotype of the type that makes a good leader – typically an alpha male: assertive, domineering, loud. This is off-putting to those who don’t fit an extrovert, macho mould.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Those who are quieter, more collaborative and who choose to leave the office on time to collect their children can be equally effective leaders. Being a senior team member doesn’t have to mean sacrificing precious family life.

Prioritising diversity and flexible working

Here at 3R Strategy, we operate in a genuinely flexible way. As long as we meet deadlines, we select our own schedule. Everyone is based remotely, and whether we need to work around childcare or other commitments and hobbies, people can choose a timetable that suits them.

All companies have the ability to offer employees an enriching career and an enjoyable life outside work. We suggest taking the following steps that will help organisations to improve and build a culture of trust and collaboration – and encourage a culture of equal career progression:

  • Aim for a genuinely diverse leadership team, aiming for more balance between the numbers of men and women
  • Ditch an old-fashioned company culture where bums on seats are seen as more important than output
  • Encourage diverse leadership styles and different types of role models – such as promoting collaborative, supportive and reflective personalities
  • Allow senior teams (and those further down the chain) the option to job share, work part-time or more flexibly

Transforming a rigid culture into one that’s more flexible in its attitude to working hours could help tackle the gender pay gap, too. More women would be able to progress their careers without feeling like they had to choose between their job and family.

If you’d like to find out more about how 3R Strategy can support your business, email us: sarah@3r-strategy.com