By Daniel Hunter

ManpowerGroup, the world leader in innovative workforce solutions, says new, contemporary approaches to work are required in order to break down barriers facing women in the workforce - a crucial step to grow talent pipelines and to spur successful economies.

Women remain the greatest underleveraged source of talent in the world despite ManpowerGroup's 2012 Talent Shortage Survey finding that one third of employers are struggling with skills shortages.

According to the International Labor Organization, nearly half of working age women are not currently active in the formal global economy, and among Fortune 500 companies, only 15.7% of board seats are held by women.

"What companies are offering women is clearly not what women want. There needs to be a shift toward work models that better provide women the flexibility they are looking for so that the percentage of women in the workforce does not drop off at every sorting of talent," said Mara Swan, ManpowerGroup Executive Vice President, Global Strategy and Talent. "We also need to focus on strategic ways to reintegrate women who temporarily leave the workforce to raise families."

On International Women's Day last week Friday, Swan – who was recently named a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Leadership and HR Executive of the Year for 2012 by Human Resource Executive magazine – gave her global perspective around how flexible working practices can help retain more women in an interview with BBC World Service Radio.

Swan was joined in the discussion by Fiona Woolf, who is in line to become only the second female Lord Mayor of London, and Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, founder of Akili Dada, a leadership incubator investing in the next generation of African women leaders.

"I look forward to the time when the world no longer needs an International Women's Day because our societies have achieved equality in the workforce and have unleashed the potential of all people," added Swan.

"Companies need to value the diversity of thought, perspective and experience in order to unleash the potential of all of their people, regardless of gender or generation, to nurture innovation and productivity," said Jeffrey A. Joerres, ManpowerGroup Chairman and CEO.

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