The chief executive of the UK’s Chartered Management Institute inspires all managers to push harder to close the gender gap.
By Ann Francke
I am regularly asked: “As CEO of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in the UK, why is gender balance the topic you frequently choose to focus upon?”
It is the CMI’s mission to create better led and managed organisations which drives me – and gender balance is perhaps the best lever we can pull to develop better leaders and managers at every level. But that alone does not explain why I focus on gender balance so much.
All the evidence shows that this is a business imperative. McKinsey estimates that true gender balance at work could add US$28 trillion to the global economy. More diverse companies outperform their less diverse competitors by 21%. No board should be ignoring these facts. And frankly, after a career of both highs and lows which mapped very closely to the diversity of the organisation in question, I believe that, by creating gender-balanced workplaces, we will be ensuring the next generation of women experience more peaks than troughs.
STUCK IN A GLASS PYRAMID
In the UK, the gender pay gap for senior leaders and managers remains stubbornly stuck at around 26%. CMI’s own research has found that men are 40% more likely to be promoted than women, which contributes to what I call the ‘glass pyramid’ – where women’s representation in organisations steadily falls off the more senior you go: from approximately 50% representation amongst junior managers, to – shockingly – just 5% of CEOs.
This presents a very dreary picture, but there is hope. Inspirational organisations are showing that change is possible. These organisations have taken a ‘heart and mind’ approach. They implement targets and processes to collect data and build the intellectual case for their action to drive balance. But they also have senior leaders at all levels talking authentically about the need for equality, and they encourage everyone to challenge native behaviours which damage their inclusive cultures.
It is only through this ‘macro and micro’ approach that change will come.
When I wrote my latest book, Create a Gender-Balanced Workplace, I interviewed a number of high profile leaders and champions of gender balance and workplace change. For example, Brenda Trenowden, Global Co-Chair of the 30 Percent Club, laments that while many companies are throwing money at the problem, not enough are actually committed to asking seriously uncomfortable questions to establish a baseline from which to improve. She celebrates that the FTSE 350 has just hit the target of having a third of board positions filled by women, but cautioned that within the statistics, the outperforming boards were pulling up the underperformers.
BOLDER AND BRAVER
I want to end on this point. I speak a lot to girls and young women in schools and universities, from teens to those in their mid-twenties. I say the same thing to them – we aren’t going to fix this problem in my lifetime, and unless we get bolder and braver, we won’t fix it in their lifetimes either. So I will continue to say loudly and proudly: “Get involved and do something, anything – if for no other reason than for the next generation!”
If we are to achieve gender balance before the current projection of 207 years – yes, that’s 207 years – we all have to keep pushing. But knowing that management and leadership focused institutes like CMI and IML ANZ are strong champions, I believe that our outlook isn’t dark and stormy. It is bold, bright and balanced!
This article originally appeared in the December 2019 print edition of Leadership Matters, IML ANZ’s exclusive Member’s magazine. For editorial suggestions and enquiries, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.