Attending a Women in Recruitment event, it was only a matter of time before discussions turned towards a lack of female talent in senior positions, and the problematic solution of positive discrimination.  The panel had some enlightening ideas about how to create a work space where women thrive and will naturally grow to senior positions, as opposed to appointing an unsuitable woman simply to tick a diversity box.

Firstly, why is it in your interests to have a diverse senior team? There is a wealth of research that proves that companies fare much better with a diverse senior panel.

“a company’s odds for success increases with more female executives at the vice president and director levels” – Dow Jones

“organisations with the most gender diversity outperform those with the least” – McKinsey

One of the main reasons women fail to make it to senior positions is that they choose to start a family. Traditionally, we don’t promote people who cut down to part-time hours, but the panel were unanimous in saying that flexible working was something that should be encouraged in the work place in order to support working mothers and keep them at the forefront of their industry. Offer flexible working for everyone in your company and mothers and fathers will be able to co-manage their family responsibilities. Additionally, things are accomplished in the time you give them. The panel had much anecdotal evidence of part time workers being top billers in their companies. When working to a strict time frame, there is less time spent chatting around the coffee machine and a more productive, focused work day.

A second theme that arose from the panel was the lack of confidence many women have compared to men. How can women reach senior positions if they don’t feel they are worthy to be there? With only 7 female CEOs in the FTSE 100, and a new topless one everyday in The Sun, many women are lacking in commercial role models and champions. Encourage your ‘greener’ female employees to seek out an experienced, inspirational female mentor who can build their confidence and show them that it is possible to get to the top.

Finally, after decades of assumptions that women belong only in caring professions such as nursing and teaching, females to need to be encouraged and approached at a young age to show them the variety of commercial industries available to them. This is certainly a long game, but by investing in apprenticeships and work experience placements for females, your company will be creating a new generation of talent, with the motivation and confidence to make it all the way to the top.


  1. Dow Jones (2012) – Women at The Wheel – Venture Capital Companies – do female companies drive start up success?
  2. McKinsey (2010) Women Matter: Women at the top of corporations: Making it happen, 2010 McKinsey and Company: McKinsey (2012), McKinsey Quarterly: Is there a payoff from top team diversity? McKinsey and Company, April 2012.