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When it comes to getting the top jobs, sadly, women are still lagging behind men. A report published this week by the Cranfield University School of Management reveals that growth in the number of women on FTSE 100 boards has stalled over the past year. The proportion of female directors has risen by less than one per cent in the past 12 months and is only five per cent higher than 10 years ago.

So what’s going wrong? One thing is certain; there is no shortage of female talent in the UK workforce. Yet organisations continue to pass over female employees when it comes to filling the top spots.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the financial sector, where women are seriously under-represented. The results of CMI’s National Management Salary Survey this year, revealed that of those fifty seven individuals surveyed who said they work at director level in the banking, financial and insurance sectors, only nine were women.

It’s not just in the promotion stakes that women are missing out. The gender pay gap continues to be a major issue across all industries and at all levels. CMI research shows that, unsurprisingly, it is at director level where the gap is biggest, with women earning 16.5 per cent less than their male counterparts which, on average, means a remuneration difference of more than £20,000.

The result is that businesses are missing out on an enormous pool of female talent. If you are an ambitious woman, but thwarted in your attempts to make it to director level and beyond, the impact of your frustration means that you are very likely to jump ship. After all, no one wants to stick around and feel that their talents are being wasted or their career stalled.

Diversity is essential in business and there has been much speculation and psychological research that supports the idea that male dominated boardrooms have a negative effect on decision making and problem solving. Who could forget the, now infamous, assertion that the recession would never have occurred, had women occupied the top spots at the banks?

If employers need another reason to put female staff on an equal footing with men, they would do well to recognise and appropriately reward the flexibility and ‘can-do’ attitude of women. CMI’s National Management Salary Survey shows that at junior levels, eight per cent of women have transferred departments in the past 12 months – nearly double the proportion for men (4.5 per cent), as opposed to seeking opportunities elsewhere. This suggests that women are more flexible when it comes to changing roles and more willing to appreciate the benefits that a lateral move can have on their career. It is alarming then, that despite their apparent adaptability, when it comes to being rewarded, women are still struggling to achieve pay parity with men.

Of course, there needs to be radical shift in the UK, whereby everyone regards the gaps in pay and equal opportunities between men and women as outmoded, outdated and simply unfair. As individuals, we should feel ashamed and embarrassed that the current situation prevails, particularly when so many European countries have already proved that tackling the problem is perfectly possible.

Without doubt, the onus to bring an end to male domination is on those organisations, particularly on the FTSE 100, that continue to perpetuate it. However, there also needs to be a shift in women’s attitudes, towards their career trajectories.

A CMI report found that male managers are more likely than female managers to express high ambitions for their long term aims. A greater number of men said that they would like to become CEO (31 per cent, compared with 21 per cent for female managers), a board director (30 to 20 per cent), or non executive director (23 compared with 17 per cent for women).

This is a ridiculous state of affairs. There should be absolutely no difference in levels of ambition between male and females at all. Tackling the gender equality problem may, in part, necessitate steps to raise the levels of confidence and ambition among women. Women are just as able as men, and need to be encouraged to feel that they are just as deserving of the senior positions, as their male counterparts. Most importantly of all, we need women to occupy the more senior posts in business to act as role models for future generations of female professionals.

Come on girls! How much more encouragement do you need?

Ruth Spellman is chief executive of CMI

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Come on girls ...
airmarshall wrote:
Friday, 20 November 2009 at 11:30 am (UTC)
... it is to the common if not incredulous neurotic depictions delivered by the daily cartoonists one can turn in answer to this problem. It is not from lack of the aforementioned ladies capabilities to entering the boardroom, it's the inability to squeeze past the FAT CATS ...
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