Culture. Confidence. Choice. Three issues that hold women back in the workplace, according to a new whitepaper: #TheCWords – Women in the Boardroom.

Authored by Sarah Pinch and Janice Guy, the report summarises the findings of the Spring Forward 2018 Conference, which brought women together to share their experiences at work.

The research asked women to describe their experiences and views relating to three Cs:

  • Culture: how does workplace and industry culture impact on their ability to progress and be recognised for the work they do?
  • Confidence: is there confidence in organisational systems? For example, are structures around recruitment, promotion, pay, and personal development fit for purpose?
  • Choice: are women provided opportunities to work flexibly, try new things and access a variety of career paths?

Many responses explored the problems women had experienced in the three areas. There was a clear message throughout the paper that strong leadership is essential to helping companies be more representative. Companies must recognise the issues around these three areas so that they can better support and reflect gender balance in their organisations.

What is needed?

The report suggests a checklist for what good looks like, with respondents asked if they could agree with all of the following:

  • I am satisfied with all aspects of my current job
  • There are good opportunities to progress and develop in my industry
  • I am clear about what I need to do to progress in my industry/field
  • I am encouraged to look for opportunities to progress by my employer
  • I feel there is strong evidence of equal opportunities within my industry (in all respects)
  • I have confidence in the systems at my organisation/company so I believe everyone will be treated fairly
  • I am satisfied that there is enough action being taken by those responsible, to close the gender pay gap in my industry.

Unfortunately, only 30% of respondents felt that they could agree with all of these statements.

I would argue that the above list should be the least we expect from employers as part of our working life. If companies are not fulfilling this, they are negatively affecting employee welfare, limiting their access to better leadership teams and ideas, and demonstrating an outdated view that will damage their brand positioning, performance, and employee engagement.

What do employers need to do to support women?

The report makes a number of recommendations:

  • Workplaces should have mentoring schemes in place
  • Progression routes should be transparent and consistent
  • Companies should introduce the ‘Rosie Rule’ – to support gender balance in senior leadership positions, at least one competent and qualified woman should be interviewed for each role. If unsuccessful, they should be offered a sponsor and mentor, with a personalised development plan and opportunities to reapply at a later date

It also recommends that women actively seek mentors, build networks inside and outside the business, and develop leadership skills and experience through non-exec roles.

The findings and recommendations are similar to the results of a piece of work carried out by CAPSIG last year, surveying women working in construction related PR. The findings explained that attitudes within the industry, as well as the external perception of construction, were barriers to both entry and career progression.

CAPSIG made five recommendations that are guiding the group’s activity this year. This includes looking at mentoring and networking opportunities, as well as working with members to help promote a more inclusive sector as part of their communications strategies. If you would like to find out more, please get in touch.

Photo by Drew Beamer, via Unsplash

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