How to increase the number of females in leadership roles

UK business is suffering from a chronic gender bias in leadership.  

Only 15% of all executive roles in the country are held by women, and the stats are even more disappointing when you look at directorships. The number of female directors in the FTSE250 has actually dropped from 7.7% in 2016 to just 6.4% in 2017 – nowhere near the 50/50 split we should be seeing.  

There were only 7 female chairs in the FTSE100 last year, and only 7 female CEOs. People have become desensitised to these kind of figures, so let’s put this into perspective. In 2017, there were 7 CEOs named Steve and 8 CEOs named David, but only 7 female CEOs in totalThis is shocking news, but it’s not just bad news for gender equality, it’s bad news for business too. Britain’s most successful companies tend to have a large proportion of women in senior management. Between 2011 and 2015, the most gender diverse companies were 29% more likely to financially outperform others. The proof is out there, but businesses are still failing to support women into leadership – even though they know it’ll improve their ROI! 

Recently, British business have increased gender diversity on their boards, and the number of women in non-executive roles has soared to almost a third. This is seen by many as a step in the right direction, but non-executive directors can’t make any decisions in the business – they’re just there to make up the numbers. These women are not always empowered to make a difference and the business don’t benefit fully from the boost in ideas, productivity and performance that come from a really gender diverse team.  

This is extremely worrying when we consider the huge productivity problem in the UK at the moment – and poor management and leadership is the number 1 cause of it. The UK’s productivity as a whole is 18% below our G7 competitors, costing the country £84 billion a year! 

So what’s the solution?  

Businesses need to invest in their female staff – and one way they can do this is through apprenticeships. Large employers that pay the apprenticeship levy have a pot of funds already allocated to apprenticeship training – so it won’t cost them a penny. And the new standards include higher and degree-apprenticeships (up to level 7) which are perfect for upskilling staff into leadership roles. In fact, 2 of the most popular degree apprenticeships last year were both management courses: the level 5 operations / departmental manager standard and the level 6 chartered manager degree apprenticeship.  

Hopefully, businesses already using apprenticeships to invest in their staff are giving women the opportunity to develop into leadership. If so, they’ll not only be doing the right thing, they’ll be doing the right thing for their business too.  

To find out how you can use apprenticeships to increase diversity in your leadership team, download our free guide 

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