This week Lord Davies will be reporting on gender equality in the board room and as a precursor to its publication, the Institute of Leadership and Management has published the finding of its research on the glass ceiling. They make interesting but sadly unsurprising reading.
They surveyed 3,000 managers; 73% of the women agreed that the glass ceiling still exists, whereas only 38% of men did – wherein the problem lies. The rest of their finding, interesting though they are need go no further than their basic starting point. Men do not see that women are held back, but women do – a direct pointer to gender inequality. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12518277
When working with a large international company a while ago, I was astounded by the level the glass ceiling had been set at and was being maintained at, despite laudable rhetoric. Blatantly, the senior management recruited to ‘their club’ not just from a gender perspective, but also race, culture and class; looking for their own cultural fit. How do they get away with it in today’s supposedly egalitarian world of recruitment?
They gave me the standard justification; in the past they had looked for people who would fit into their social, as well as working relationships.
The all male board asked for help in opening the door for women in their company to climb the ladder through management and into the board-room and in so doing “smash the glass ceiling”. However, their request was based not on a moral or social imperative or even a drive for equality, but rather being seen to be doing the right thing “and I’m sure” I was told by one board member “that there will be some long term benefit for the company as well”; words but little action. They had not even taken the time to think through what the benefits might be.
The male board was a club with restricted access. All their actions presented as a male environment that women were peripheral to and not a part of. Their language and their actions were exclusive, but they did not realise it. Even their monthly board meetings were conducted out of the office, in a hired room at their golf club. If weather permitted a round was also on the cards. They actually thought their request to open up their company to women was genuine. I asked them whether they thought women would want to join. Not very likely, I mused.
I would be very surprised if Lord Davies’ report will come out with any new or astounding findings. We only need to view a few statistics to see where women fit in management hierarchies – not senior enough, for sure!
Someone suggested to me yesterday that “we still have another ten years of fighting for gender equality, even though we have been on the journey for forty years”. Nothing will change until men at the top, those in power, really commit to making change. It’s time to see action back up words.