Friends and enemies in the war for talent

“Institutionalised discrimination”, prejudice, “group think” and patriarchy are among the main obstacles for women wishing to progress to the corporate heights, according to respondents to the FT’s first Women at the Top survey.

The FT asked a deliberately provocative question: “Are women their own worst enemies when it comes to achieving diversity in the boardroom?” Seventy-five per cent of respondents said no, but women (and men) who provided additional comments put some interesting gloss on their responses.

Here’s Suzan Sabanci Dinçer, chairman of Akbank, the Turkish bank – one of those who said women were not their own worst enemies:

Prejudice and patriarchy are women’s worst enemies. You cannot blame women themselves for adjusting their expectations to the realities of a sexist work environment.

But others who agreed with the proposition said women were putting obstacles in their own way – not necessarily by holding back other women, but, in the words of one respondent, by “not asking enough and having too little self-confidence”.

The survey also asked respondents to identify the main challenges facing business in the year ahead. Roughly 70 per cent suggested hiring and retaining skilled staff was the biggest problem. Refusing to address the gender balance at the top may be one reason why companies find themselves losing out in the war to recruit and retain talent.

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