If the so-called 'brain drain' was the major HR headache of the 1970s, then the current 'baby drain' is triggering a full-scale migraine. Despite more than three decades of official equality of opportunity for women, and hundreds of management pronouncements over flexibility, organisations throughout the country are proving unable to hang on to their highest-flying women once the nappy years kick in.
That's the stark message emerging from Diversity Drives Variety in Corporate Culture, a six-month study of senior women returners by management researchers at Durler Consulting, in collaboration with employment law specialist Denton Wilde Sapte.
The research finds widespread dissatisfaction among women wishing to combine £100,000-plus salaries with the demands of motherhood.
Compliance isn't everything
Key changes under the Work and Families Act that have just been introduced include extended maternity leave and expanded workers' rights to apply for flexible working. But UK employers need to go further than pure legal compliance, according to Julian Dawson, managing director of Durler.
Too many employers have embraced gender diversity at senior level for its own sake, he argues. Now they need to wake up to the sheer bottom-line benefits of having more women in senior positions.
To back this up, the report reveals that just one in 10 FTSE 100 non-executive posts and one in 40 senior posts are held by women a stark contrast with the US. There, firms with the highest representation of women in top management achieve on average 34% better financial performance than those with below-average representation.
Durler's findings are reinforced by a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study which notes that the number of female senior managers in the UK has actually shrunk - from 38% in 2002 to 22% today. PwC's research attributes this to, among other things, the growing cost of c