Cracking the Glass Pyramid in Management

Cracking the Glass Pyramid in Management

Getting more women into top management positions in the UK’s largest companies has been a priority for some while.

There’s even a target to reach – 33% by 2020.

So why are there a significant number of companies in the FTSE 350 that are still lagging behind the rest?

The truth is that cracking the glass pyramid is proving a lot more difficult for some companies compared to others.

Gender Equality: The State of Play

There is some good news to start with: The number of large companies with only male board members has dropped from 152 in 2011 to just 10 in 2017.

That’s according to the Hampton-Alexander Review, set up by the Government to oversee this much needed change in culture.

That sounds good on the surface, but there are far too many businesses that have been reluctant to act on equality.

And, according to the review, there are been some pretty damaging excuses coming out of FTSE 350 companies about why there aren’t any or too few women on their boards.

These range from women not fitting ‘comfortably’ into the boardroom environment to the suggestion that the issues are just too ‘complex’ for the female to handle.

According to business minister Andrew Griffiths:

“It’s shocking that some businesses think these pitiful and patronising excuses are acceptable reasons to keep women from the top jobs. Our most successful companies are those that champion diversity.”

Why Are There So Few Women in Top Management Roles?

Research by the CMI has shown that women are getting plenty of junior management roles but as they climb further up the ladder their success tends to fall off.

The lack of women in senior management is down to a mix of culture and the barriers put up by current working practices (where individuals are often penalised, for example, because they take time off work to start a family).

While the barriers can be taken down, the problem of culture within many businesses is a major issue that needs to be addressed is not so easy to reform.

Whether covert or overt, sexism in the workplace exists and often goes unchallenged, even in this day and age.

What Needs to be Done?

Cracking the glass pyramid – changing hearts and minds is never easy but the fact that some businesses have been able to achieve it or at least to work towards better equality is a sure indication of what is achievable.

Sky, for instance, now has well over a third of top senior staff represented by women, far more than the 2020 goal.

People need to engage with the equality agenda at all levels.

Line managers, for instance, are important in helping staff develop and for instituting gender equal processes.

The fact that many are not already doing this may be because of a lack of adequate training and experience.

Leaders and HR departments should take a closer look at how talent is nurtured within their organisation and start real and realistic attempts to close the gap between the rhetoric and action.

Too many businesses still say they want to create gender equality in the workplace but don’t do enough to facilitate it.

Unfortunately, there is a longstanding gender bias in many work environments.

This can often be so ingrained people don’t notice – talking over women at meetings, describing them as ‘pushy’ when they are simply trying to get things done, for example.

When you consider that male managers are 40% more likely to be promoted than female ones and as few as 8% of organisations appear to set any gender diversity targets at all, you can see the extent of the problem we currently face.

The truth is that we can’t continue to ignore half the population in favour of the other when it comes to the workplace.

The good news is that, while a worrying number of businesses are struggling to reach parity, others are creating the role models and processes that lead to more equality in the workplace.

Cracking the glass pyramid may take time but we’re beginning to get there.


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