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IWD: Are there enough women in business?

Category: Pro-Opinion, Women, Leadership, Business, Billionaires

IWD: Are there enough women in business?

The short answer is No.  There are not enough women in business and there are not enough women in leadership roles. The long answer is more complicated.  There are in fact, too many men in business, and not enough men at home. Is that not the same thing?  Read on!

Just 11% of the Forbes rich list were women in 2015, which is still a rise compared to the previous year.

According to Forbes it was yet another record year for women on its list of the World’s Billionaires.

Of a total 1,826 billionaires, 197 are women, up from 172 in 2014.

The other problem is that most of the women on the Forbes rich list have inherited their money from male relatives, it takes time to generate wealth and women have been behind for many generations.

The glass ceiling is very much still a real thing and research by The New York Times showed that a man is more likely to be in a leadership role than a woman.

Sarah Callender, MD at Bdaily said: “Although things are slowly changing I think there aren’t enough women in senior roles. It does however feel like there has been an upturn in women entrepreneurs starting their own business, maybe because of the flexibility it can offer. There is still a shortage of women on boards and working at senior management level, it’s still very male dominated outside of the SME market place. Personally though I have not experienced a gender barrier in any of the jobs or business I have been involved in.”

So what is the solution?

Websites such as Inspiring Fifty are great for inspiration; it showcases that women can be and are successful in business. However is this kind of inspiration merely patronising?  Men do not need to be inspired to take the lead so why do women?  Why is there such a gender divide?

My Family Care, a company that to helps employers support employees with balancing work and family, have asked senior ‘change-makers’ for their views on gender diversity in the workplace.  Each of these are very senior members of staff at hugely successful companies who are striving to establish and maintain gender diversity at board level. One of the people who answered was Donna Halkyard, Vice President of the City Women Network.

She said: “Introduce a sponsorship programme for women who show potential for leadership.  These provide women with great access to networks and opportunities, upping their visibility. Just as importantly, they work because they require organisations and those who are sponsors, who are predominantly men in senior positions, to proactively and visibly demonstrate their belief in, and support for more gender-balanced businesses.”

Perhaps the answer is to look at women who are already successful? LSL Property Services, which owns national estate and lettings agent including Your Move and Reeds and has its head office is in Newcastle, asks Group HR Director, Lisa Charles-Jones how women can get ahead in business.  She said:  “It has been proven that a sponsor is very important to career development, and that sponsors tend to support junior staff of the same gender.  Therefore, more females in senior roles will help progression and diversity.   This means that more women in senior roles is  an important  factor if we can ever make  gender diversity an issue of the past.”

So it seems the change has to come from the top and filter through, with more women sponsoring women and a greater cooperation from the current senior management.

The problem is with an unequal divide between men and women at the senior level of management, the problem could be self perpetuating.  If you need more women at the top, to encourage women to get to the top then the problem won’t be solved.

It is the attitudes of both genders that need to change to ensure more women are working in business.

Feminism is not a woman-only answer but needs cooperation between both genders in order to ensure a more equal and diverse world of work.

Diane Hall disagrees with me, and thinks that there are enough women in business, she said: “I don’t think there’s a lack of women in business at all, but it’s the kinds of businesses they run that I think is significant. I also believe a lot of business choices women make are down to a lack of confidence – more support in this area, in my opinion, would be wonderful, and would greatly boost the size/success of existing female-owned businesses, rather than repeating the numerous resources already out there that help even more women into forever-small businesses, which only serve to feed the bottom of the pyramid. Give women a leg up to actually grow their businesses! I genuinely believe women can’t have it all – I don’t think anyone can, whatever their gender”

Are there enough women in business? I still maintain that there aren’t.

Is work needed to lessen the gender divide? Yes! Are there any solutions to the problem?  Well that is complicated.  The first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem and that there is an unequal divide, that there isn’t enough support for balancing work with family life and that there is still a disparage between how men balance family life and how women are expected to.  One example of a more equal footing in business is in the Netherlands where dads and mums spend more time at home, splitting parenting duties with working life.  It is not uncommon for fathers to have ‘daddy days’  where they spend time with their children, and companies are equipped to allow for this.

There needs to be more men taking a leaf out of the Dutch system and spending time with family.  There needs to be a greater balance between men and women in both the workplace and the home only when that happens will we see more women in business and more men at home.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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