In their report ‘Ambition and Gender at Work’ the ILM explores the hurdles women face along their career path and the factors that create the ‘glass ceiling’ effect that many women managers encounter.
The research found that 73% of women believe there are a number of barriers preventing them from progressing to top levels of management. Alongside the well-known obstacles of maternity and childcare-related issues, other critical factors included lower ambitions and expectations.
Compared to their male counterparts, women tend to lack self-belief and confidence, with half of women managers surveyed admitting feelings of self-doubt, compared to only 31% of men. Women had less clarity about career direction, lower expectations about becoming a manager, and were on average 3 years behind men in moving into management roles.
The ILM’s recommendations focus on a business-led approach, encouraging organisations to set their own targets and act decisively if they are to avoid the introduction of government impositions or quotas.
They suggest recruitment practices, talent management and work-life balance policies have an important part to play and place a strong emphasis on training and development.
How can training and development help?
The research suggests employers should target their development spend to both address gender imbalance and maximise the impact of their leadership development by tailoring it to the differing needs of individual managers. Coaching and mentoring were identified as being highly effective ways of encouraging women to realise their leadership potential.
Coaching stands out as an ideally flexible solution which can address the more emotional aspects of leadership development and can be a powerful way to build women managers’ self-belief and encourage them to take measured risks.
Mentoring programmes can also be instrumental in raising women managers’ aspirations. Employers should look at using networking and development events to raise the profile and visibility of successful women. They should also identify successful leaders of both sexes to serve as mentors to female managers, providing advice and encouragement based on their own experience and encouraging them to seize career opportunities.
Only by taking such proactive steps to development will organisations help women start to break through that glass ceiling.
Over the last 25 years I have gained extensive experience working with private and public sector organisations seeking to modernise and grow their business through building their managers’ capacity to deliver excellence and get the best from people. When I am not helping others with their professional development I am usually honing my French language skills and still striving to achieve a sub one-hour 10k run!