By Daniel Hunter

Masculine workplaces, fear of failure, a ‘sorry skirts’ culture and lack of flexibility from employers is leading women to opt-out of management according to Women in Management — tackling the talent pipeline, the Chartered Management Institute’s (CMI) second White Paper on gender issues.

The trend is evidenced by the pyramid structure of women in management roles with the majority (60%) of junior managers reported to be female, a figure which reduces to 40% and 20% in middle and senior management positions respectively.

Through the White Paper, CMI explores elements of working life that it suggests play to the strengths and behaviours of men instead of women such as a confidence in their ability to do a job and a women’s tendency to apologise for their professional and personal actions on a more frequent basis than men — sometimes referred to as ‘sorry skirts’.

The White Paper comes off the back of results from the annual National Management Salary Survey published by CMI and salary specialists XpertHR, which reveal male managers earned average bonuses twice as big as those of their female counterparts over the last 12 months — £6,442 compared to £3,029 — on top of average basic salaries almost 25 per cent bigger (£38,169 compared to £29,667).

The White Paper brings together the best experience and management thinking from contributors including Valerie Dias (Visa Europe), Dame Carol Black DBE CCMI (Expert Adviser to the Department of Health) and Professor Susan Vinnicombe OBE (Cranfield School of Management).

Furthermore, the White Paper tackles some of the cultural barriers and attitudes women face in the workplace and challenges these with recommendations for individuals, businesses and society as a whole.

Ann Francke, CMI Chief Executive says, “Progress has been made to get more women on boards and to reduce the gender pay gap, but this has been all too small and all too slow. There is a drop-off in the female talent pipeline and changing this will be the only way we will ever see equal representation in UK boardrooms. Rather than a pipeline we’ve had a female management pyramid for too long and it is time for change. Businesses need to support women to be authentic, individual and assertive, without becoming a cultural clone in a macho male environment.

“For years we’ve used the phrase ‘glass ceiling’ for women at the top, but more and more we find other obstacles even at entry level, through middle management and beyond. These hard-to-see hurdles and humps all too often make women opt out, and are why businesses lose a bank of talented people and managers. Employers need to do more so diversity delivers.”

As well as actions for individuals, the Paper outlines recommendations for employers to change the status quo, focusing on three key areas:

· Create transparency and report on equality. Diverse organisations perform better so there is a need for employers to be open and report on the number of women at all levels of their organisation, as well as being transparent on pay, promotion and progression processes.
· Make the culture work for men and women. Organisations need to embrace flexible working options for women and men, understanding that results and performance is more important that ‘presenteeism’, as well as redefining what success actually looks like.
· Give women the role models they need. Sponsorship and mentoring of talented women should be a cultural norm in the workplace, as well as giving them the confidence to shout about their successes and still pulling them through to the top when they don’t. Back this up with training, experience and qualifications to prepare them for future leadership roles.

Dr Lorna Gibson, National Chair of Women in Management (WiM) says, “Role models and mentors in our work lives are invaluable and women need to see other women they admire in positions of leadership and authority to aspire to similar levels of success. Businesses can help through mentoring and sponsoring more junior women in their organisations who show potential and are keen to progress, that there are different and flexible ways they can do this. Through our Horizon Mentoring Programme, we buddy up professional women with real people they can identify with and learn from.”

The White Paper is published as business leaders have been invited to come together for the Government’s Women in the Workplace: Driving the Change event with the Chancellor, George Osborne and Minister for Women and Equality, Maria Miller, which is being held on Equal Pay Day, an annual nationwide milestone highlighting gender pay inequality across the UK.

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