In preparation for International Women’s Day on 8th March 2018 Chad Harrison International looks at the landscape of senior management roles held by women and what can be done to improve the situation.

Since 2000, the number of female leaders in politics, excluding monarchs and figureheads has more than doubled. However, of the 193 UN member states, the current number of female leaders is nine heads of state and eight heads of government. This is far from equal and 100 years on from women achieving the vote in the UK, there is still much work to do.

How is this reflected in the business world and what needs to change to ensure more women reach the top of the organogram?

Women in leadership roles

In the corporate world, it’s a similar story, the number of women in C-suite level senior roles tops out at 24% and the numbers are changing lethargically. One-third of global businesses had no women in senior management roles and under a quarter of females hold senior roles. This is an increase of just 3% since 2011 and if it continues at the same rate it will be decades before there is parity between men and women.

For Chad Harrison International, operating in industries such as the Built Environment or Mining & Metals, it’s a similar story. The percentage of women in senior management roles is only 9%. The perception is that women can’t do, what has traditionally been seen, as a ‘man’s job.’

According to Catalyst, male-dominated occupations are particularly susceptible to masculine stereotypes. Senior leadership teams dominated by men tend to set the tone for talent management and progression. Catalyst research discovered that consequently, it results in a less diverse workforce.

Taking Australia’s mining industry as an example, the number of women working in the industry across all levels is 15.8%. Unsurprisingly, only 2.5% of CEO positions are held by women.

Whilst this may be explained by the fact that only 20% of engineering graduates are women, it doesn’t account for the disparity in the pharmaceutical industry. According to RockHealth, women make up almost half of all medical school graduates and 73% of medical and health services managers. However, when analysing CEO roles, only 4% are held by women.

Why are there less women in leadership roles?

It’s clear therefore that across most industries, female progression stalls at the C suite level. The reasons behind this are complicated and numerous. According to the author of Lean In and current COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, women have much more to consider than men when it comes to their career. Having children can impact on progression – women need to feel like there is a career with opportunities worth coming back to and fighting for. After childbirth, leaving a child and going to work is difficult and so is remaining steadfast if a company is not worth it.

Adding to this, there is a social pressure on both sexes to raise children well, providing them with the time and opportunities that will see them become well-rounded adults. The backlash from the 1980s ‘latch-key kid’ is still a very real judgement today.

Sandberg also argues that women and men view themselves differently in the workplace. While men tend to overvalue their abilities and worth, women undervalue themselves. 57% of men straight out of university negotiate their salary compared to only 7% of women.

Another issue is that a male-driven workplace does not allow women to succeed. Women that don’t adapt to the male culture are often met with hostility and are driven off. But does that mean that women have to be more like men in order to succeed, particularly in heavily male-dominated industries such as mining?

What can be done to improve?

No, not necessarily and it would be a sad state of affairs if they did. For Sandberg, getting involved, being assertive and believing in one’s own ability are all critical factors in breaking through the glass ceiling.

Mentorship is also crucial to success and this applies to both genders. Without it, employees don’t progress.  Surprisingly, women are 24% less likely than men to get advice from senior leaders. Through mentorship, women and men can both progress as far as their abilities will take them, and research has found that organisations with diverse leadership realise higher profits.

Situations, where mentoring would be useful, are sometimes difficult to identify. Providing equal access and ensuring women are involved in team activities, advocating for women and putting them forward for stretch assignments and networking opportunities whilst providing actionable advice; identifying areas where they could improve their skill sets can make a big difference. This helps create a convivial company culture, reducing staff turnover.

Catalyst found in a recent report that women get fewer of the ‘hot jobs’ required to advance. These assignments generally consist of highly visible, mission-critical roles and international experiences. According to Catalyst, they are an indication of future progression. By promoting the involvement of women in these types of projects an organisation is more likely to help them progress to senior positions.

Whilst there is a long way to go before achieving parity, there are companies in the manufacturing and heavy industries making a difference. French industrial giant Lafarge has many women in senior leadership roles globally. It is aiming to have 35% of senior management positions held by women by 2020. Since 2010, Lafarge Brazil increased the number of women in senior positions by more than 200% from 28 to 99. The landscape is changing, slowly but there has been significant progress in achieving equality.

For a confidential discussion about your next career move and advice about the current landscape, contact Chad Harrison International today.