Days after the UK’s second female Prime Minister met the US President in Washington one might wonder whether women still need special support or encouragement to take on senior leadership roles.
The evidence from less elevated circles is that they do. Although there are as many female graduates as male in the UK, and men and women start their careers on an equal footing, at each successive stage of advancement fewer and fewer women make the cut. At board level women comprise less than 30% of directors, and many of these are non-executive directors, and only 6% of FTSE 100 CEOs are women (going up to 7% in April when Emma Walmsley takes the reins at GlaxoSmithKline).
To succeed in business, confidence matters as much as competence, and evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men. Depressing, research published this month in the journal Science suggests the problem starts young and that children as young as six can be influenced by stereotypes such as the idea that brilliance or giftedness is more common in men than women.
Whatever the reasons, women are not achieving their full leadership potential and for all of our sakes we need to do something about it – for the benefit of the individual women and for the broader economic benefits that will follow from fully harnessing female leadership talent.
A new program run by Bath University School of Management, at their London campus, takes up the challenge. Based on leading edge thinking and led by Professor Veronica Hope Hailey, a world authority on leadership and trust, Bath’s Women in Leadership program helps executives develop the critical leadership skills and practices needed to climb to the top of the corporate ladder.
The role of the role-model is critical and a key feature of this five day program is the opportunity to work with other senior women leaders to learn how to leverage personal leadership style, overcome barriers to success, and develop a successful career in times of change – senior women leaders such as Margaret Heffernan the renowned international business woman, entrepreneur, Chief Executive and author, and Caroline Waters OBE the campaigner and influential former Director of People and Policy at BT.
In business, there is a perception that women tend to keep their heads down and play by the rules, believing that their talent and hard work will automatically be recognized and rewarded. Whereas men are less inhibited about pushing for promotion, even when clearly lacking the experience or skills that would appear to be needed.
Another perception is that while the ‘old boy’ network may be dead, male advancement is more likely to be assisted by social networks – be it the pub or the golf club – than women’s.
The Bath program tackles both of these perceptions. It focuses on developing a personal leadership style through an understanding of how to build trust and influence, offers techniques to help women engage at the highest level, and invites participants to become part of a professional and personal network of like-minded dedicated women that will help them navigate their way to further success.
Program participants explore latest thinking on issues related to women in leadership, working in small groups to share insights and compare experiences, and benefit from one-to-one coaching sessions to reflect on their career opportunities and develop their own personal plan to achieve them.
Learn more about Women in Leadership which is run in London, 8 - 12 May 2017.