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.

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

The 'Women at the Top' blog is part of a series of online and print publications that focuses on women's achievements in business. With up-to-date news and incisive analysis, the blog will provoke discussion on the role of the world's most prominent businesswomen.

For more Women at the Top news, video interviews and other features, visit


About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.