Glass ceiling still looms large in the UK

A report published today by the Institute of Leadership & Management in the UK suggests that 73 per cent of women believe the glass ceiling still exists. The survey also finds that more than a third of women believe their gender has hindered their career progression.

These findings come just days before Lord Davies’ much-anticipated report into quotas is due to be published. As reported last week in the Financial Times, it is widely expected that his committee will not be in favour of quotas, instead putting pressure on headhunters to produce candidate lists that include 30 per cent women.

In the ILM online survey of 3,000 managers, evenly split between genders, almost half of women respondents (47 per cent) supported the imposition of quotas, against just 24 per cent of men. Moreover, while women over 45 were most in favour of quotas, with support from two-thirds of the sample, men in the same age group were most strongly opposed to them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, just 38 per cent of male respondents said they believed a glass ceiling still existed.

A clear majority of female managers were in favour of a subtler approach to gender equality in the boardroom and senior management. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) agreed that “positive action” should be undertaken to increase the number of women in senior positions, compared with 42 per cent of men.

The survey also found a significant gap between men’s confidence and ambitions compared with those of women. While 70 per cent of male respondents described themselves as having “high” or “quite high” levels of confidence, only half of women did. Two-thirds of men said they expected to become managers at the outset of their careers, compared with just half of women.

The report also reveals that women, especially younger women, are more likely to aspire to run their own businesses. A quarter of women under 30 surveyed said they planned to start businesses within 10 years. This finding underlines other media reports, discussed recently in this blog, that women may be leaving working cultures where they feel unwelcome and choosing to go it alone.

Penny de Valk, chief executive of the ILM, had this to say on the findings:

“Employers who are serious about increasing gender diversity at the top need to recognise and respond to these differences, and find ways to nurture women’s ambition. This means developing transparent talent management systems and introducing leadership career models and development approaches that flex to meet individuals’ differing needs. Coaching and mentoring, in particular, have an invaluable role to play here.

“We know that gender diversity drives organisations’ financial performance. Business leaders should need no encouragement to realise this competitive advantage by ensuring their most talented employees move into leadership roles, regardless of their gender.”

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