Top women held back by male prejudices at work

Businesswomen
across Europe are being held back by damaging male preconceptions about their
potential and the roles they can perform.  

Research
released today by Catalyst and the Conference Board shows that most senior
managers believe that the opportunities for women to advance have not increased
over the past five years.

Women
in Leadership: A European Business Imperative shows that two-thirds of the
senior businesswomen surveyed claim that stereotypes and preconceptions about
women’s roles and capabilities are preventing their progression.

Other
barriers for the 500 women surveyed – in 20 different countries – include a
lack of senior female role models, a shortage of general management experience,
family commitments and the absence of mentoring.

Cheri
Alexander, vice-president of personnel of GM Europe and adviser for the
research, said: "Companies need to commit to creating the right
environment for women to succeed.

"It
is leadership’s task to hold managers accountable for finding and grooming
talent and ensuring a focus on career planning and management. It also has to
step-in to dispel stereotypes."

Of
the 132 senior businessmen surveyed, few realise there are preconceptions about
women’s roles at work. This lack of understanding is holding women back, claims
the research, published in partnership with IBM Europe, Accenture and BP.

Nearly
half of the women surveyed felt they are working too many hours and most are
reluctant to fully use parental benefits – they fear that taking leave or
working flexible hours will damage their careers.

Julie
Mellor, chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: "Employers
need to promote family-friendly working as a valid option for women and men at
all levels.

"Long
hours mean business fails to capitalise on female talent," she said.

www.catalystwomen.org

By
Mike Broad

Feedback

Helena
Feltham, HR director at Marks & Spencer

"Stereotyping
and the lack of role models are the main barriers for women. The way forward
for any organisation is threefold: to secure the commitment from senior
executives; promote women into senior positions to inspire other female
employees; and improve accountability by having good objective-driven
management which gives clarity on who delivers what."

Rhodora
Palomar-Fresnedi, vice-president of management development at Unilever

"Ignoring
50 per cent of the talent pool is disastrous to any business. Companies serious
about diversity will be wise to note that if they address women’s issues, they
build capabilities to handle broader diversity concerns, like personal
effectiveness and flexibility."

Cheri
Alexander, vice-president of personnel at GM Europe and research adviser

"We
have increased the proportion of women at executive level by 79 per cent over
five years to 31. Equality for women is taking a while, but happening faster
than it was. I am pretty positive."

Men
command the big salaries

The
number of people earning six figure incomes in the UK has increased by almost
50 per cent over the past four years, but few of these are women.

Figures
calculated from tax records on the Inland Revenue website show that 326,000
people will earn more than £100,000 before tax this year. Only 41,000 or 12 per
cent are expected to be women. The percentage of women in top rank of wage
earners hasn’t moved. Four years ago there were 222,000 people getting six
figure pay packets but again 27,000 or 12 per cent were women.

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