There’s a lot been made about the glass ceiling, and how women are largely under-represented at higher levels of commerce and industry. Though the situation is slowly improving, there are many examples where the front line is bottom heavy with female employees while men direct things from the top.
But is this down to women wanting flexible work and less pressure, due to family commitments? Or has it more to do with a lack of career progression and training opportunities for females who would appreciate getting ahead?
Recent figures show that there’s still a gap in pay scales between the genders, for the same roles. In male-dominated industries, such as construction or engineering, there’s also the perception of chauvinism and a lack of acceptance, which could put off women a career in these sectors – however realistic this may actually be.
Managing Director of One Way, Paul Payne, says: “If firms want to increase diversity in their company they need to review their training and development opportunities to ensure they appeal to everyone.” Paul adds that recruitment companies should set an example, and lay in place sufficient support and career development strategies for women to reach the top tiers.
In 2011 a voluntary code of conduct was launched by then Business Secretary, Vince Cable, which invited executive recruiters and search firms to show their commitment to gender diversity at top level. 70 firms signed up to the initiative, which was undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but it seems there’s still a lack of training and sufficient career plans in place to allow women to get to a position where they could direct from a board in the first place.
Said one female employee in construction: “The difficulty was at the outset of my career, gaining credibility in the industry, and acceptance from my male colleagues that I was up to the job. Knowing that there was equal chance that I could be promoted was key to me even attempting to push further. Happily, the company I work for is forward-thinking and encouraging; I never felt that I had more chance of promotion because I was a woman, but neither did I feel this would be held against me. I’ve now progressed to a level I’m happy with.”
To increase the amount of suitable candidates at board level who are female, as much focus needs to be placed on the pipeline. So, how can recruitment companies make a difference?
Recruiters are best placed to demonstrate an employer’s commitment to career progression for women, or show where there are better opportunities for such support and reward; places where the internal cultures of these companies recognise the benefit of true diversity, rather than it being just a box-ticking exercise. Though the onus is still on the candidate to excel in their role and be nominated for promotion, that they’re pointed to more forward-thinking companies in the first place can mean their efforts are as likely to be noticed.
Because, in an ideal world, there should be no issue surrounding gender, and it shouldn’t matter whether a prospect for promotion is female or male, as long as they’re hitting targets and showing great potential; but similarly, gender shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to shortlisting either. Recruiters have the relevant insider knowledge to know if this is the case in real-time, whatever a company’s glossy brochure and diversity policies may state. The glass ceiling exists, of that there is no doubt, but nowadays, it looks to have cracks and splinters. Recruiters are in a good position to wield a hammer of their own, in an attempt to smash through to true gender diversity.