facebook twitter linkedin
Back .

Women and Executive Roles

Whilst progress has been made over the last twenty years in removing the gender gap in the workplace, a bias towards men still exists when it comes to so-called ‘executive positions’.  
High profile companies such as IBM, GM, Pepsi and Yahoo all enjoy female CEOs and recent election debates in the United Kingdom demonstrated women’s ability to take on men even in the highest echelons of Westminster.   However statistics reveal this picture is rather misleading as men still account for well over 70% of executive positions not just here in the UK but throughout the global economy.  
Research conducted by workplace gender consulting firm 20-First reveals 89% of executive jobs in Europe are held by men.  In the US 83% of executive positions are held by men.  In Asia a whopping 96% of executive jobs are held by men.  
 In the UK companies have attempted to tackle these shortfalls by offering women non-executive roles.  
You may wonder why this situation has arisen.   Is it down to plain old sexism?  Well the evidence say’s it isn’t.  
One key reason for this gender inequality at the top is women themselves.  Studies have shown on average women often aren’t as ambitious as men when it comes to workplace advancement.  
Another reason is a fall in overall executive roles on offer.
Companies have had to reduce executive roles in the light of the financial crisis back in 2008.  More stringent accountability laws have also played their part. Fewer executive roles mean more competition.  
Another reason is an unwillingness on companies’ behalf to embrace flexible working hours.  Women who’ve given birth often give up their careers due to child care commitments.  Many companies flat out refuse to offer flexible working hours. Thus many women are able to continue with their careers without sacrificing their childcare commitments.  

How women can turn the tide in their favour.
We now turn to practical steps women can make to improve their odds of landing an executive role.
 #1. Seek a role in a company which embrace flexible working hours

If you feel a baby could be on the horizon in the next few years start thinking now about what will happen once your child is born.

Talk to other members of staff who’ve given birth and check your contract to see if the issue of flexible working hours is covered.

If your company does not entertain flexible working hours it may be time to jump ship and seek employment where flexible working hours are offered.

Flexible working hours afford you the ability to spend more time with your children without sacrificing your career. Therefore check your contract of employment to see if flexible working hours are allowed.

Management roles typically become available when workers reach 30 to 35 years old.  If you leave work around this time in order to pursue childcare responsibilities you may miss out on key promotions required to obtain an executive position in the future.  Flexible working hours could be the lifeline keeping you in the workplace during those critical years.  Women often resume their careers in their 40s.  By this time the promotion boat has long since sailed.

#2. Don’t let early ambitions fade

When you start your career you’re likely on a quest to take over the world. But as your career rolls on you may lose your zest for advancement.  Lack of motivation and apathy towards career advancement affects men too.  However studies have reveal women are more affected.  

Stay motivated by reading stories of when women succeeded against the odd.  Motivational stories arm you with powerful role models. This helps maintain your desire to succeed over the long term.

Career advancement is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s thus essential you keep your motivation levels high not just over several years but over several decades.

#3. Make friends in the right places and lobby/ask for power
Taking over the show requires allies.  This means strategic networks and potentially stepping on toes.  Embrace strategy in your career.  Plan for power.  This doesn’t mean some bloody coup d'état but it does mean accepting you have competitors.

Make it known early on in your career you have the potential for leadership.  Make this known by your actions, not your words.  If you put more effort into your job your good work will be noticed in time.  At times you may feel un-appreciated but this is the price you must pay.  March on and the rewards will surely follow.

#4. Know the limits of corporate training and the so-called ‘defined career path’

Over the last decade FTSE 350 companies have invested in developing women’s leadership skills.  This has had little return when one inspects figures relating to the number of female executives working in FTSE 350 companies.  Training is rarely the deciding factor when it comes to obtaining an executive role.  Refer to and actively practice point #3 above as well as attending training in the area of leadership.
#5. Try to move into operations role

For some reason women tend to shun operations roles. Operations roles may require frequent travel.  Again this requirement may conflict with childcare responsibilities. Success in an operational role is thought to be key for progression into an executive role.  

If you’re currently in a HR or finance role consider branching out into operations.

That’s all for now

We hope you enjoyed our blog post on women in executive roles.  We hope we delivered a thought provoking discussion.

Be sure to check for updates.


Paul | Sun 28th Jun 2015


Share This



Amanda Wright Rec to Rec - Recruitment Specialists for the Recruitment Industry, specialising in recruitment to recruitment. © 2021 Amandawright rec to rec recruitment consultants