Business woman (6)

To mark International Women's Day (today, 8 March), the Institute of Directors has called on businesses and employers to step up their efforts to increase the number of women in executive leadership positions.

Lady Barbara Judge CBE, the first female chairwoman in the IoD’s 110-year history, outlined three measures she wants to see businesses explore which could make it easier for women to make it to the top table in greater numbers:

  • Shake up on recruitment practices: Big companies should look at measures such as gender-blind applications and make sure there is a women on the interview or recruitment panel for senior roles
  • Job sharing and part-time executive roles: Where possible, businesses should introduce flexible working schedules, including job-sharing and part-time roles for their most senior positions to make it easier for both men and women to fit career progression around their family lives
  • Mentoring and role models: Businesses must champion women in senior positions and use them to help support those throughout their organisation and show them ambitions of the c-suite are both realistic and achievable
Lady Barbara Judge CBE, chair of the IoD, said: “The remarkable success in increasing the number of women on boards in the UK over the past six years shows how enthusiastically businesses have embraced their role as champions of female progression. Now, we must channel this progress into tackling the next item on the agenda – getting more women into senior, executive, decision-making roles. The onus must be on employers to do everything they can to harness their female talent. After all, it is a business’s loss if it fails to make the most of half their workforce.

“Companies need to assess their recruitment practices and ensure there are helping ambitious and talented women make it to the top. Job descriptions need to be flexible enough to encourage applications from high-flying men and women, whether they meet every single one of the criteria or not. Gender-blind applications may also be a good step towards stripping out any remaining unconscious bias, and firms should try and put a woman on the recruitment or interview panel.

“More imaginative solutions should also play a role. If employers allowed senior managers to job-share, for instance, it would send a strong message throughout the organisation that they value the importance of fitting career progression around employees’ busy family lives. It would also instantly increase the number of available positions, helping to grease the ‘talent pipeline.’”