The Slippery Steps
Quite rightly, there is a big push right now to get more women into senior business roles. If half the population rarely gets to the top, we’re obviously all missing out on a lot of talent. That’s not good for business, society – or the individuals themselves.
This push is most easily seen on visible measures such as the number of women on public company boards. We have to start somewhere, of course. There’s been progress: many more women have been appointed to such boards, particularly of the largest quoted companies. There are more women running public bodies and charities. Some of the professions – accountancy and law, for example – have also made great strides. But some others, like my own engineering profession, have remained pretty heavily dominated by men.
When we turn to executive roles, the picture is more mixed. Women are often running important business functions. Human Resources comes to mind. But we need women in charge of IT; big, core divisions; and whole companies. The female role models on company boards are a start, but there is much more to do.
So how do we get there? There are many women’s networks today, both within companies (usually the larger ones) and across multiple companies. There are clubs, support organisations and so on. I think these all have their parts to play, but we need to do more. Personal development, coaching and mentoring can be hugely helpful. The impetus has to come from the top – today’s business leaders must help tomorrow’s business leaders succeed.
We’ll only really have succeeded when significant numbers of women have climbed the slippery career steps and are in charge of traditionally male businesses such as mining, oil and engineering. In the meantime, let’s do all we can to unleash that wasted talent.
© Patrick Macdonald 2015