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Workplace culture was shown to be a bigger issue for female progress than balancing work and family life in a recent investigation by professional training company Roar Training. The investigation uncovered the top 10 issues that are holding women back at work in the UK.
Focusing on everything from ambition being seen as a bad thing to unhealthy company culture, Roar Training’s research shows that the reasons why UK employees aren’t getting ahead are varied, but unfortunately, not that surprising.
Top 10 Issues Holding Employees Back At Work
Roar Training analysed the issues that are holding UK employees back at work and discovered just how much needs to be addressed. Their research uncovered the 10 most common workplace issues.
Studies show that 74% of female employees feel that their workplace culture makes it more challenging to advance their career than men. In fact, the top issue holding UK employees back is unhelpful stereotypes.
- Unhelpful stereotypes
- Ambition seen as a bad thing
- Differing views on satisfaction between genders
- Unconscious bias
- Unequal pay structure
- Working hours
- Company culture
- A lack of career progression
- Minimal training and support
- Lack of role models
Stand out stats from Roar Training’s research include:
- Almost three in four (74%) of female employees feel their workplace culture makes it more challenging for women to advance their careers than men. 42% of men agreed.
- A survey of 4,010 young mothers aged 18-30 showed that 39% had been illegally asked in job interviews how being a mother would impact their ability to work.
- Studies show that women are more likely to be referred to as bitchy, emotional and bossy than their male colleagues.
- Attributes displayed by men are often viewed differently when displayed by women.
- Unconscious gender bias affects workplace feedback and advancement. In an interview environment women tend to be judged on their experience, whereas men are more likely to be judged on their potential.
- Nearly eight in 10 firms, 78%, have a pay gap in favour of men, while 8% of companies reported no pay gap at all.
- British employees work some of the longest hours in Europe. A high percentage of UK workers work more than 10 hours over their contracted hours on a regular basis.
- Women are more likely to be promoted by other women than men. This has been put down to issues such as inherent bias.
- A year-long study by Cambridge University of 5,814 UK employees (54% men and 47% women) found that workplace culture was creating a barrier to career advancement for women. In fact it was shown to be a bigger issue than balancing work and family life.
Commenting on the findings Kirsty Hulse, Founder of Roar Training said
Our findings are just the highlights reel of the large mass of issues UK employees are experiencing every single day.
We seriously need to invest time and effort into listening to our employees and putting steps in place to address these concerns. Fail to do so and your employees will make their thoughts known through absence or taking their skills elsewhere.
Men becoming better allies will also be key to changing organizational culture and making women feel more comfortable at work and allow them to thrive.
Another wasted year
Despite the Government setting a target of 33% women in leadership roles at FTSE 350 companies by 2020, and despite a flow of formal reviews, The fourth consecutive report, Women Count, produced by Pipeline shows there has been little to no progress. This independent report of the FTSE 350 has found that:
- Only 3.7% of companies have female CEOs – and this is down from 4.6% two years ago
- More than 85% of companies have no women executives on their main boards#
- Only 9% of executive directors on main boards are women, unchanged since 2017
- A mere 17.1% of executive committee members are women, a tiny increase of just 0.8% since 2018
- One in five companies have no female members of their executive committees at all
- At the current rate of progress, it will be almost 2090 before executive committees achieve gender balance#
- Just 5% of executive committee positions are held by women in roles with profit and loss2 (P&L) responsibility
- More than half of FTSE 350 companies have no women on their executive committees in a P&L role at all
- This situation is replicated on the main indices of major economies across the world, with India and Germany having no women CEOs at all, while China, Hong Kong, the USA, Spain and France have only one each
The fact is that many FTSE 350 companies are failing to offer talented women access to key executive positions as such opportunities continue to be given automatically to men.
Why does this matter?
Evidence shows that the failure to draw on a wider pool of ability actually damages the companies themselves. Those FTSE 350 companies with 25% or more women on their executive committees last year achieved an average 16% net profit margin3 while those with no women achieved just 6%. P&L roles are the pipeline for future CEOs and if women are blocked at that stage then they will not get the chance to run companies and companies will not get the chance to benefit from their broader talent pool.
Why don’t companies address the problems of gender imbalance?
Where there are already women at the top of companies, the evidence shows they are much better at progressing other female talent. Research reveals that women CEOs have twice the average number of women in executive positions than their male counterparts, and FTSE 350 companies led by women have an average of seven times more female executives on their main board than those led by men.
It is hard not to conclude that where men are in charge, they tend not to want to let go of their grip and allow women a share of the action.
6 Key Facts
1: Business performance is maximised when they promote women
2: Women on executive committees
3: It’s not just about numbers, the type of role matters
4: Female leaders succeed at progressing all talent, where male CEOs fail
5: Company boards remain a male executive preserve
6: Across the globe, it’s still a man’s world
- MAKE IT THE CEO’s RESPONSIBILITY
- ESTABLISH HARD TARGETS
- TRANSPARENCY IS KEY
Careers expert Zena Everett is an executive coach, author and an in-demand speaker on career management and productivity. Here she talks about how to spot and stop burnout in your teams – and yourself.
Don’t wait for a sickness note or resignation for proof of burnout in your teams. Here’s some warning signs to look out for and some prevention strategies.
Burnout is defined as a ‘state of vital exhaustion’. How do you know if you are genuinely exhausted with work rather than depressed? A depressed person will take their black dog with them wherever they go. Burnout, on the other hand, is confined to work. Get away from your desk (and your boss) and up a mountain, on a beach, or wherever you go to decompress, and your energy and mood will be restored.
To state the obvious, people should NOT burn out, take a break, return to work and repeat the pattern (although I know some who do). That’s bonkers from any angle: career, psychological, physical or family.
Your job as a manager is to ensure that your team members are happy, engaged and productive (all three feed into the other). Burned-out colleagues are none of these. What are the warning behaviours? Here’s two canaries in the coalmine I look for when coaching:
Burnout Sign #1: Reduced productivity.
Your high performing, perfectionist, people-pleasing, nothing-is-ever-good-enough-for-me, piece of expensive Talent ceases to deliver. They work even longer hours but the standard of their tasks tails off. Talk to them about it. Say that you have noticed the changes and ask what they think is going on. It could be that they are just bored and need more responsibilities. Or they could be overwhelmed by their workload and their own relentless drive to excel. Those are predictors of burnout. Coach them to manage the demands of their role and the pressure they put on themselves.
Burnout Sign #2: Cynicism.
This varies from an increasingly apathetic approach to the job, when people fall prey to office and digital distractions, to downright pessimism about the impact of their work. You’ll hear previously positive people make snidey comments about the customers, other team members, other departments, or senior management. ‘What’s the point anyway, nothing changes around here,’ ‘I don’t mind teaching, it’s just the parents and the children that spoil it’, ‘not him again, what does he want this time?’ etc. It’s sort of funny in the moment, but it’s not actually. Negativity and disengagement will drive more motivated team members away. It’s certainly not enabling a collaborative culture that screams service, success and energy.
What can you do to prevent burnout happening and restore resilience? Step up to the plate and actively help your people to do their best work in a healthier way.
Restore the boundaries.
Employees are happiest and most motivated when they make daily, incremental progress towards their goals.* That’s all it takes! Allow them to get their meaningful work done – with clear role descriptions, targets, performance metrics, deadlines, training and all the resources they need.
Then get out of their way.
When I meet stressed-out people they are often overloaded with pointless projects, routine administration, complicated reporting systems, badly-thought out management initiatives and lengthy meeting schedules. All of these are obstacles to real work. Be brave. Re-evaluate the output you expect from people and clarify how they can achieve it. Then cut out everything else that takes up their time. They’ll thank you for asking some hard questions and challenging fatty work cultures that inhibit productivity. ‘Why are we doing this? Is there a better, more efficient way of achieving the same result?’
Walk the talk.
You are a role model for high and healthy performance. If you are rushing from one meeting to another, snapping at people, over-promising and under-delivering and working stupid hours, then you’ve no time to step back, listen, think strategically and nip problems in the bud before they escalate.
Delegate, manage upwards, push back, re-negotiate and say No.
All of these are crucial yet basic leadership skills. Don’t send out of hours emails (save them in your draft folder or use the timed sending facility if you really must write them), or finesse tasks that don’t need finessing (that power-point deck is just fine). I hear of so many managers who CREATE stress.
- Get proper training on the granular details of managing work-flow.
- Only hold meetings that are absolutely necessary, keep to an agenda and don’t let anyone waffle.
- Be on time.
- Look like you can cope with more responsibility, not that you are about to combust.
Disconnect and build real connections.
No one can be ON all the time. Do less but think more: you’ll be more valuable that way. You rarely get your best ideas in the office.
- Encourage your people to take their holidays.
- Exercise. Breathe.
- Find a hobby or a challenge outside work that nourishes you.
- Take a real lunch break and eat with your team.
- Talk, don’t email.
Someone said at one of my recent Crazy Busy™ sessions that the only creative thing their Creative Director did was create email chains.
Reward results, not presenteeism.
Flexible working is a no-brainer. Trust people with the freedom to do their work in the most appropriate place and don’t be petty about checking up on them. There is no correlation between long hours cultures and productivity, quite the opposite. A sense of control over where and how we do our best work is a crucial aspect to motivation.
Build co-worker support systems.
Eating together, talking about how to improve processes, doing pre- and post-mortems, building in planning time, asking for support and advice. I’m not sure that hackneyed team-bonding initiatives like away days are as effective as regular, shorter team pow-wows when you can really communicate, allow everyone’s voice to be heard and get solutions from the people at the front line. Problems don’t get solved by paint-balling.
*Conclusion of a reassuring three-year study by Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School on how to create forward momentum with clear goals, autonomy and a genuinely respectful culture. It confirms what your management instincts have been trying to tell you: HR interventions that work are lean, honest and relatively obvious. Read her book with Steven Kramer, The Progress Principle: Using small wins to ignite job, engagement and creativity at work.
I hope that’s helpful and I’d love your feedback and experiences. As ever, please feel free to share with anyone you think would benefit.
Pick up the phone if I can help build resilience and coping strategies with my executive coaching or if you need a lively, practical speaker on career management or productivity topics at your next conference.
Phone: +44 20 3287 9505 | Mobile: +44 (0) 7968 424650
Your session was great – informative, interactive, fun and engaging, can’t ask for more! ICAEW SME Conference Organiser
Here’s my short animation on how to stop our brains getting so frazzled
Click HERE for details of sessions I can run in your business
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It’s about what managers and leaders do everyday
The catalyst for elevating women in organisations comes down to what managers and leaders do every day according to a new study published by talent development and transition company Lee Hecht Harrison. The daily behaviours of the people managers who are known champions of female talent have the greatest impact on an organisation’s ability to get and keep women in their leadership pipelines.
The new study from LHH points to the frustration organisations are experiencing in their ability to address this issue and highlights what’s required to create the inclusive workplaces needed for women to advance. The findings show that 58% of companies believed advancing women is a critical business issue yet 76% of those organisations were unsatisfied with their ability to demonstrate the individual actions, organisational practices and cultural attributes that cultivate gender diversity and elevate women in leadership.
The top five behaviours that people leaders demonstrate to champion female talent that make a real difference are:
- Provide coaching and feedback that builds business acumen
- Support flexibility to manage work schedules or location of work
- Provide equal access to meaningful stretch projects that are tied to strategic business objectives
- Give females exposure and profile to senior leaders and decision makers
- Recruit and promote from a diverse pool of candidates
Caroline Pfeiffer Marinho, Executive Vice President, EMEA for Lee Hecht Harrison, said,
Champions of female talent were twice as likely to demonstrate these behaviours to a very high degree compared to other people managers. We know that leaders shape culture. And when you need your culture to shift, you need to hold your leaders accountable to act in the desired ways.
Pfeiffer Marinho added,
In times of talent scarcity, you simply cannot choose to ignore or even exclude 50% of a potential talent pool – woman. Organisations have been investing in women and in organisational practices for decades, but with little results. Knowing that one of the key catalysts for elevating women is the behaviours of people leaders, organisations now have a clear business imperative to develop more champions of female talent, who shape an inclusive culture, making it possible for women, and consequently businesses, to thrive.
Retention and Progression of women still needs to be addressed
Despite significant investment and profile, corporate Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) remains a war of attrition, with women leading only 4% of the world’s largest banks, 3% of food processing companies and 6% of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
In a recent white paper Chris Rowe, Global Head of Leathwaite’s HR Practice, examines the current state and some of the challenges associated with corporate Diversity & Inclusion, whilst concluding with suggested strategies for change.
Sadly, this does not paint a pretty picture.
- Within the 50 largest companies in the US & UK, mentions of Diversity within corporate reporting and female representation at a leadership level (Executive Committee & Board) in the same organizations are negatively correlated, implying that those who talk about D&I the most are often the least effective at embedding it at a senior level.
- Inclusion, the practical application of diversity or the “effective management of differences” remains critically misunderstood by many, with the assumption that simply having the right demographics alone is enough to harness the power of a diverse team.
- Unintended consequences of seemingly relentless messaging on corporate D&I include that of “D&I Fatigue”; wherein the apparent lack of progress leads to a level of inertia internally.
- Incumbent staff at a mid-senior level can also become disenfranchised by corporate D&I, when they perceive that their performance and promotion prospects are secondary to external candidates who “fit the bill”.
- Heads of Diversity & Inclusion, those at the vanguard of these efforts, need to be correctly positioned and adequately resourced to help drive change. However, both the positioning and the high demand for these skills dictate that this is a role perceived with mixed effectiveness and high turnover, with the average Head of D&I staying in their role a little over 2.5 years.
However, on a more positive note, Rowe does point out that:
- Despite these challenges, there remain a number of highly successful initiatives within the global market that indicate strides forward are being made, including the “Returnship” concept. Critical to the success of such schemes is the positioning that they are underpinned by live vacancies of actual corporate positions.
- Leveraging the contingent labour market (or “gig economy”), building agile organization structures and deploying co-headed functions at a senior level are also all mechanisms to drive a more diverse workforce.
Leathwaite was formed in 1999 and is a leading international firm of human capital specialists with offices in London, New York, Hong Kong and Zurich. With a leading reputation for delivering exceptional executive search, executive interim, management consultancy and market intelligence solutions, Leathwaite is seen as a partner of choice for some of the world’s most innovative and ambitious companies.