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Will Hutton

Will Hutton

Principal, Hertford College, Oxford University and chair of the Big Innovation Centre

Tuesday 06 May 2014
Cracking the code: a gender intelligent approach to developing corporate leaders

Cracking the code: a gender intelligent approach to developing corporate leaders

Female executives in the UK’s top companies are two times less likely to be promoted than men. However, women at the top are also four times less likely to leave a company than their male colleagues despite the lack of opportunities for promotion, according to new research published by the 30% Club, YSC and KPMG.

The research, encompassing a representative cross-section of FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, accounting for over 680,000 employees, highlights a number of similarities that men and women share in terms of their career aspirations, leadership behaviour and push and pull factors for career moves. 

Yet, the study also suggests that even small differences can result in markedly different outcomes. 

It’s evident that companies are not doing enough to support and encourage women to get to the top and is this is a critical business issue, according to the report’s authors.  To deliver fundamental change in the future, organisations need to be more honest about the strategic importance of gender diversity. All leaders must show a genuine personal interest in the issue of getting women to the top. 

The report provides 3 key actions that organisations can take to realise the full potential of all employees: 

1. Unlock the power of data

Data today is powerful, especially when it links both people and business performance. Companies are not doing enough to track individuals through their working life - firms need to collect and provide more data to help build a clearer picture of employees' careers. This type of dynamic data enables organisations to manage their talent pipeline in an informed way.

2. Authentic leadership

Employees of both genders want better quality, more career-focussed conversations, with clear career mapping that leaders understand and support. It is often the quality of the conversation rather than the quantity that is important here. All those in positions of leadership, including line managers have a special role to play and should be given help and support to enable them to talk authentically and be ‘gender intelligent’. 

3. Responsibility & accountability

Senior management must take responsibility, both collectively and individually for gender parity. All leaders should be held accountable for their actions. This includes the Board and Executive Committee being measured regularly against set targets, and leading by example (e.g. be clear on what messages they as a group are delivering through reward and recognition). 
It’s clear that greater authenticity is needed from business leaders as to whether gender diversity is a strategically critical corporate priority or not. Our workplace culture is changing, but to keep that momentum going it is vital that we all take responsibility, share information and are as transparent as possible. That way we can learn how to do things differently and more effectively in the future.

Robert Bolton is a partner at KPMG and Melanie Richards is a partner and board member at KPMG