Women in Leadership: Time to Intervene?

Robinson D, Hicks B | Opinion Paper OP20 | Institute for Employment Studies | Aug 2010

Despite long-standing anti-discrimination legislation in the US, UK and across Europe, women still remain under-represented at senior level in most organisations.

During these uncertain times, many organisations are restructuring, and senior leadership teams are being forced to make important decisions about the future direction of their organisation.

The evidence suggests it is important to have a diverse senior management team that is truly representative of employees’ and customers’ interests. This would mean that not only women, but other under-represented minority groups, should be encouraged and supported to aspire to a position of leadership.

Several organisations that realise the importance of a diverse senior team, and are attempting to address inequality at this level, have asked IES to investigate what is going on: what are the barriers stopping women from getting to the top, are HR systems and processes inadvertently discriminatory, and what actions should organisations take?

Although the majority of this client work has explored the career paths of women and the obstacles and enablers they have encountered, many of the findings can be applied across all under-represented employee groups.

This short piece summarises the key themes emerging from IES’s client work.