Poor female talent pipeline ‘costing £5bn a year’

Improving the talent pipeline of female leaders at work could benefit businesses to the tune of £5 billion a year, yet HR professionals neither recognise the potential returns nor the ambitions of female managers they employ, a report has found.

The report, by resourcing company Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS), found only 40% of HR leaders could see improved business performance as a benefit of helping women to progress beyond middle management into more senior roles. The benefits they were more likely to cite were improved company culture (46%) and improved recruitment of women into the company (42%).

More than 80% of female managers felt this lack of progression to be a problem, yet the proportion of HR leaders who agree is much smaller, at 62%. Asked to estimate the percentage of female managers who would seek promotion in the next two years, HR leaders suggested just 35%. However, 56% of women said they would like to be promoted in that timeframe.

Rosaleen Blair, founder and CEO of AMS, said: “This is a wealth of valuable experience and expertise that businesses will be losing, often to competitors. Addressing the pipeline for female talent should be a major focus for businesses of all sizes.”

The release of the report is timely, with the European Union having recently agreed to impose objectives on the number of women in non-executive board roles. However, a report earlier this month by the House of Lords looking into the business advantages of female representation at senior level failed to conclude that there was a correlation between a higher proportion of women on the board and better financial performance.

That said, the results of the AMS report echo those of another recent survey by testing company SHL, which flagged up that while the UK ranks 19th out of 25 countries in terms of how many women occupy leadership positions, it ranks fifth in terms of leadership potential. The authors of this report argued that, because of a number of factors, women become increasingly demotivated through their careers and that potential is therefore not realised as often as it could be.

Karen Gill, co-founder of women-in-business specialist Everywoman, which collaborated on the report with AMS, said: “While diversity is much more front of mind than several years ago, some companies still don’t know where to start to unlock the productivity of their female middle managers. The good news is that there are practical steps companies can take to improve their female talent pipeline.”

The report recommends a number of practical steps organisations can take to unblock the pipeline of future female leaders. These include: paying greater attention to female managers in the succession-planning process; focusing on the business case for gender diversity; aligning HR’s perception of female managers with their ambitions; allowing more flexible working options; enabling female staff to take control of their careers; and promoting good female role models in the business.

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