Helping you mobilise your inner resources to achieve your dreams

Creating an evaluative coaching programme

Dimensions UK wanted to set up a highly personalised, coaching-led career development programme that was both affordable and effective, with evaluation measures that clearly supported the investment. This was the challenge for Simon Gosney, Head of Learning and Development at the Dimensions Group and Angela Sabin, Principal Coach at Executive Life Coaching.  

Together, we set out to provide a high-impact programme to develop talent, support succession planning and retain and engage colleagues. It needed to offer high quality career coaching to several hundred people, without the big ticket costs such a programme would typically incur. As well as creative design, highly focused evaluation measures were critical to the Aspire programme’s eventual success.

In meeting this challenge, we learned 3 key lessons:

1. Data will be abundant. Be focused and ‘ruthless’ about the measures that matter most. There is so much we could measurein terms of what this talent programme delivers, how should we prioritise the most important ones to report? Learning which interventions would make the biggest difference and contribution to organisational priorities was critical to this, and relied on us taking an agile approach to measurement. Aligning this programme to emerging organisational priorities has enabled us to continually adapt and evolve the programme, identifying what works and testing the means of scaling up and replicating the likely conditions that enable such successes. This has ensured continued funding of the programme as we can point to the estimated return being at least twice the investment.

2. Don’t under-estimate the value of rich qualitative measurement. We have learned better methods of expressing results in ways that are concise and meaningful. Demonstrating effectiveness to the Board has depended in part on being able to highlight the tangible impact we are seeing in terms of retention and permanent promotions achieved by identified talent. Initially, we perhaps under-estimated the value of qualitative success stories that epitomise the benefits of the programme with a richness and texture that quantitative metrics alone simply cannot convey. It was this data which helped demonstrate a set of wider, often unintended benefits to the people with learning disabilities and autism that the Dimensions Group supports.

3. Resist the temptation to slice out the cost of thoroughly measuring and evaluating. It would have been easy to take out the cost allocated for evaluation from the programme’s budget – it equated to around 5% of the total cost. Keeping it in has helped us to secure ongoing investment for the programme, win an external award and has helped raise the bar and share lessons for how to effectively evaluate similar L&D interventions. We also learned that our system of evaluation enhances learning as it enriches the coaching conversations Angela and her colleagues have with their clients.

To learn more about #Aspire and its measurable and evaluation impact contact Angela Sabin angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk
Telephone – 01302 220021.

How can the social care sector ensure it retains its best staff?

Coaching team

Employees that don’t buy-in to company values are highly likely to leave. It is critical that the workforce is supported with a development strategy and talent management programme that supports participants to enrich their roles.

Doing just that we co created the Aspire Career Development Programme with Dimensions UK, one of the UK’s largest not-for-profits, who support people with learning disabilities, autism, challenging behaviour and complex needs. The programme provided staff with access to coaching which helped them achieve their personal and career objectives, and create a workable development plan.

Providing individuals with the opportunity to ‘craft’ their current job role into something more meaningful resulted in employees being more hopeful about the future, believing their job role and responsibilities had been enhanced or changed as a result.

Creating a culture of enrichment can result in incredibly empowering transformations. My recent work with Dimensions UK supports this.

On completion participants 83% report career growth, 94% are more motivated as a result, 92% are confident they can progress their career, 90% feel more connected to the work, 87% feel the company is a better place to work than other organisations in the sector, 88% feel the company offers good opportunities for career growth, 40% lower sickness absence amongst participants and of those considering leaving 100% changed their minds.

One of the most significant ways coaching had an impact on culture and individuals was through an uplift in personal confidence. Confidence levels jumped from 60% to 94% in the first three months. The impact of this on the lives of the people being supported can’t be overstated.

Prior to our work a Dimensions UK staff survey found that two thirds of their workforce felt that there were few opportunities for career progression at Dimensions. Within a year of the introduction of the Aspire Programme a subsequent staff survey showed a 14% increase of people with good prospects for promotion and development. our career growth percentage, although other measure such as turnover are stable. At completion,  94% participants are more motivated as a result of being on Aspire and 92% are confident they can progress their career at Dimensions.

And what about retention?

Average annual turnover of participants is just 6%.

Aspire worked for Dimensions UK – So much so they won the Business Culture Achievement Award: Public/Not-For-Profit Business Culture Leadership Award at the Business Culture Awards and were finalists in the Business Culture Achievement Award: Large Business and Business Culture Leadership Award.

So thrilled to have been a part of the transformation.

Angela Sabin features in a CMI first

Angela Sabin features in the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) magazine Professional Manager in the first of its kind feature where experts in their field are chosen to go head-to-head on a subject.

Angela was chosen to go head-to-head with Svend Brinkmann author of ‘Stand Firm: Resisting the self-improvement Craze.’ on the topic of coaching.

Titled ‘Do you really need a career coach?’ Angela clearly states why coaching is absolutely necessary to manage your career progression choices and strategies.

Read it here:

01.11.17. CMI_AUTUMN_2017 copy

Congratulations to our client Dimensions UK for being nominated as a finalist in 3 categories at the Business Culture Awards

We’re delighted to congratulate our client – Dimensions UK – for being nominated as a finalist in 3 – yes, that’s 3 – categories at the Business Culture Awards.

The nominations are for Aspire – the amazing Career Development programme we co created around three years ago. Since then, we have coached clients across eight separate Waves. Today, I’m going to describe to you why we were invited to help Dimensions UK create this programme and some highlights of our joint achievements.

What was the business need for Aspire?

Dimensions provide first class support to people with learning disabilities and those who experience autism. Just like any organization in the care sector it needs to retain its best staff over the long term. Long term staff enable long term trusting, productive relationships between team members and the people they support. Staff retention in the social care sector is not only business critical, it is also a badge of quality. We addressed this need through the creation of Aspire.

Every participant with a place on the programme has a career coach, and crafts a development plan to help them achieve their career objectives, all supported through 5 coaching sessions and Aspire exclusive workshops.

And the results?

Latest data clearly shows for participants on Waves 1-6:

  • 83% participants report career growth
  • 100% say the work they do relates to Dimensions values
  • 94% are more motivated as a result of being on Aspire
  • 92% are confident they can progress their career at Dimensions
  • 90% feel more connected to the work they do as a result of being on Aspire
  • 87% feel Dimensions is a better place to work than other organisations in the care sector
  • 88% feel Dimensions offers good opportunities for career growth
  • At completion of Aspire, of those who disclosed they were considering leaving Dimensions earlier, 100% had changed their minds
  • Agency staff costs are expensive, so a 40% lower sickness absence amongst participants than others in Dimensions is another clear return on investment.

One of the most significant ways that Aspire has had an impact on culture at Dimensions and on individuals, is an uplift in personal confidence. Confidence levels jump from 60% to 94% in the first 3 months. The impact of this on the lives of the people Dimensions supports can’t be overstated.

Staff throughout the organisation noticed the impact too – within a year of the introduction of Aspire, the annual staff survey showed a 14% increase of “Dimensions provides people with good prospects for promotion and development”.

Important external perceptions are also reflecting this change. Within a year, CQC Inspections reflected positive comments about career development:

“Staff told us that there were good opportunities for career development”

And what about retention?

Average turnover across the social care sector is 27% and rising. Average annual turnover rate of Aspire participants is running at just 6%.

Do you know, or can you think of a collective noun for leaders?


Later today, I am previewing a new leadership workshop.  For the icebreaker, I have created posters of a number of leaders that will be on the walls as participants arrive.

I plan to invite the participants to choose a leader who they think best merits the title of leader, and then say the single most important thing, to them, that makes this person the ‘best’ leader in our gallery.  If they can’t find a ‘fit’ in the gallery, they can say who they would add and why.

When I chose the images, I wanted to depict leaders from history, current leaders and a mix of backgrounds – industry and commerce as well as sports and politics.

I also wanted to represent a good diversity of leaders; a balance of men and women, a mix of leaders from different ethnic backgrounds as well as disabled leaders.  What interests me about my choices is that my own bias translated into the images I selected even as I was picking a diverse selection.  Not just the “who?” – others may not even recognise Emmeline Pankhurst, but also how flattering the images I selected were.  I grew up in South Yorkshire and can remember Dad taking us to the picket lines with several Christmas lunches during the Miner’s strike.  I included Margaret Thatcher in the gallery, but I chose not to show her coiffed and serene.  No.  I picked an image that showed her pointing her finger; frowning; mouth wide open as she was making an animated speech. Seeing the news this morning Hillary Clinton was added too – love being topical.

Back to my icebreaker.  I expect some participants will list certain attributes of their first choice.  The thrust of the workshop is around leadership flexibility, not single traits, so I hope this will provide an initial discussion on that.

I anticipate some participants will list the results achieved by their first choice.  I hope this will provide an initial discussion around ends and means in the context of leadership.

I purposefully included Rihanna and Zayn Malik.  I predict some participants will question why these appear in the gallery at all.  With some citing Zayn Malik as the most influential Muslim in the UK, I hope we will raise some questions around whether experience is critical for a leader.  Can young people make effective leaders?  I also plan to use the opportunity to invite participants to explore whether a leader needs followers.  With about 45 million Twitter followers, does this make Rihanna a leader?  Does a huge number of followers equate to an effective leader?

A squabble of seagulls

A squabble of seagulls 

Up to now, I have been referring to my collection of images of leaders as a gallery.  What’s bugging me, though, is that this seems to fit better for a collection of rogues.  At school, we learned some wonderful collective nouns.  Among my favourites were a parliament of owls, an exaltation of larks and a squabble of seagulls.

I turned to the internet to look for the collective noun for leaders.  Where it should have been right between a murder of lawyers and a colony of lepers (hope the positioning isn’t significant) was……nothing.  Do you know of, or can you come up with a collective noun for leaders?

Angela Sabin is an executive coach who works with leaders to help them get clear on their goals and mobilise their own resources to achieve these goals.

Contact Angela on 01302 220021 for a free, no obligation chat, or email her at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

With thanks to stock images by  Naypong and sumetho at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the images.

Executives: How much effort do you put into your assistant’s career?

ID-100111377Behind every great boss is a great assistant…wouldn’t you agree? The sheer variety of tasks they’re required to demonstrate and the attention to detail they need to apply demand a hugely diverse range of skills. Consider: could you do your job anywhere near as well without them?

According to the Global PA Association, too few bosses place much thought towards their assistants’ careers. Rosemary Parr, assistant to Sir Christopher Bland when he was head of BT, said: “Sir Christopher told me that once I’d got to the top, as his PA, I didn’t need any more development. He was being a devil’s advocate but often that’s what chief executives are thinking. They need to understand that the more you help people to develop, the better they will do their job for you.”

I’ve spoken before about the merits of delegation. Involving key staff in decisions means they’re able to contribute relevant information. The eyes and ears of the executive assistant, for instance, reach far wider, and across more levels, than the goal-driven, one-track-mind executive.

Degrees, initiative and emotional intelligence

Statistics show that only 40% of UK PAs have degrees, perhaps one area ripe for development. That said, it’s not easy to get an assistant with whom you have a good working relationship, who can think like you think and spot things you miss. If you have this kind of connection, with an executive assistant who’s professional and intuitive, it’s common sense to consider boosting their skills gaps than hiring, instead, a new graduate who may consequently have little experience and initiative, and possibly, poor emotional intelligence and a lack of self-reliance.

Given the deep understanding an executive assistant has of their boss’ role, it’s not unthinkable that they may be an appropriate replacement if he/she moves on – another reason to be concerned with the boosting of any skills/qualifications gaps. And carving out a clear development path for your executive will lead to a more engaged and productive employee.

A pivotal role, not just a fetcher/carrier

One of the main aims of an executive assistant is to make their boss look good, to pick up on any mistakes he/she has made before they’re noticed, to prompt and to feed back, and also to build a contingency for the unexpected. Some days, they’re expected to work miracles. They’re time-savers, as well as occasional life-savers, filtering what’s urgent from what can wait. They’re pivotal to an executive’s operations, making what’s commonly a hectic, over-committed 9-5, a smooth and rewarding day. Is it unfair, therefore, to reward them, perhaps with a leadership role of their own?

Clearly they have the skills, and it’s unwise to make them feel as if they’ve reached their ‘limit’, in case they look elsewhere for more challenges than what you may perceive as simply booking your next flight or collecting your Starbucks. Do you know, for example, how much your executive assistant does in his/her daily role? Have you an idea of the range of skills he/she applies during their working week? Whilst it’s crucial that your PA knows your role inside out, do you have a similar understanding of what you expect of them?

Standing in for the boss

For instance, a recent survey of over 1700 PAs and Executive Assistants showed that, “nearly 20% regularly make recommendations that their bosses act upon, regarding important strategic and financial issues. 20% take regular meetings in place of their manager, and over 30% manage vital company-wide projects.” More ‘heart of the organisation’ than ‘right-hand man/woman’.

The role of the executive assistant is, nowadays, more than just a support role. It’s one that can be moulded into a bespoke, highly specialised position. Some executives clearly value their assistants, demonstrated by their insistence that they go with them when offered a new executive position with another organisation. It makes sense: why spend time creating rapport and a well-crafted, smooth working relationship with someone who may not have the same diplomacy, people management skills or ability to organise fine details, when you can bring this with you?

Michael Hayman, co-founder of Seven Hills, adds this: “They say that knowledge is power. And it is. An assistant of mine was once snapped at by someone who insisted they speak to the boss. They obviously did not understand that they already were. The conversation never happened.”

Perhaps it’s time to take stock and consider not what your assistant can do for you, but what you can do for them….

Angela Sabin is an executive coach who helps her clients succeed and progress within their career, and to also remove obstacles that are impacting their life. Contact Angela on 01302 220021 for a free, no obligation chat about your needs and circumstances, or email her at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

With thanks to stock images at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

Succession management programmes: the backbone of every organisation?

ID-10083024Are they necessary? Do they deliver? What benefits would you see if you implemented a succession management programme within your company? And how can you ensure your programme is appropriate?

What succession planning is, and how it can prove its worth

Succession planning should not be an afterthought or a consideration once a vacancy appears, but a seamless, consistent initiative running throughout the company, which aligns to the company’s medium and long-term goals. The focus, therefore, should not be on replacing staff or how a workforce is best distributed in the current climate, but on retaining future talent and the strategic career plans of key people holding specific skills and the right aptitude – it’s a perpetually evolving process. This forward thinking also upholds business continuity – rather than see a lifetime of knowledge and experience disappear as a senior executive retires, succession planning can help upcoming talent harness this expertise, by shadowing, mentoring and personal introductions to the departing executive’s carefully built up network.

The feeling such nurturing instils in an in-house high-achiever, knowing they’re being ‘cultivated’ for bigger and better things, can further boost their loyalty and become an even bigger driver of their performance. That their future looks promising and is clearly mapped out within their organisation dissipates any need to look elsewhere.

Does every organisation see the worth in their programme?

It appears, however, that some programmes aren’t fit for purpose. According to a recent survey of 1,000 senior executives, less than a quarter were confident that their company’s succession management programmes would deliver the right candidate – if any at all – to executive and leadership positions. The majority, despite having structure in place for in-house promotions, were forced to look outside the organisation to fill higher level vacancies.

Though it’s easy to see succession planning as a business element that can easily be put on the back burner if more immediate concerns/issues arise, in the long run, the organisation could suffer as a result. Having a good understanding of the issue from their position, HR directors believe succession planning is even more important now than it was before the recession, according to recruitment specialists Randstad Financial and Professional, and their findings from a recent study they held. Two-thirds of those polled went on to say they believed succession planning would be even more crucial in the future.

Starting early…

It’s been shown that pay is only one consideration when it comes to career choices; an effective solid, structure for progression is likely to influence talented employees far more. Some say that succession planning should be a factor from the off – even when interviewing prospective employees – in order to recruit and hone key positions within the company.

Identifying possibilities within a workforce is a key element of both talent management and succession planning. Have you tests in place, for example, to measure potential? Do you have appropriate resources and programmes available to develop raw talent for future senior roles?

Planning affords time towards building the right skills in the most appropriate area. By the time succession occurs, transition is seamless. Compare this to a more reactionary approach to succession, and it’s likely that the person taking over won’t hold the necessary transferable skills or fully understand the nature of the role he/she has taken on.

The competitive advantage of a company boasting a flourishing succession programme is significant, and the implementing of such an initiative need not be difficult – so why are they not integral to as many businesses as they could be?

Some businesses, such as fast-growing technology companies, simply haven’t had the time to install such a scheme or structure whilst focusing on the growing of their business. Another reason could be that founding members of an organisation find it difficult to let go, at pains to think of their retirement and who may succeed them. In family-run businesses, issues in personal relationships can see those at the top actively seek out impartial third parties to run their businesses, rather than hand the reins to the next generation – a move borne out of fear that the founders’ practices and business plans won’t be followed.

It’s clear that an appropriate, thriving succession planning programme and talent management initiatives can drive a company forwards far more than a company without such schemes in place. Given the incessant drive for competitive advantage, I believe succession planning will become even more necessary as time marches on. 

Do you need help to create a succession planning programme within your organisation? Angela Sabin is a Senior Coaching Practitioner and executive coach, helping those engaging her services remove obstacles in their careers or life situations. Contact Angela on 01302 220021 or email her at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

Thanks to ddpavumba at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

The role of the non-executive director, and how to determine if they can benefit your business…

ID-10075451Non-executive Directors (or NEDs) are common within large organisations’ executive boards. The NED, as an outsider, can help bring a fresh perspective and vital insight into a business’ strategy – their objectivity and ability to see an overview of the whole organisation are huge assets.

NEDs are usually chosen because of their experience and knowledge, though not necessarily gained in that organisation’s industry. Transferable skills are important, as are the right qualities and commitment. Businesses are encouraged to have more than one NED but to not get carried away with their appointments – according to the Stock Exchange’s Combined Code, a balance is necessary to ensure that “no individual or small group of individuals can dominate the board’s decision-taking”. They believe that “non-executive directors should comprise no less than half the board.”

More than just short-term consultants, NEDs have the same legal responsibilities as a director employed by the organisation, and are invited to apply the same commitment as their in-house counterparts. Strategy is their focus, as is long-term direction and a steadying hand, rather than on day-to-day operational issues.

Given that their aim is to boost growth, should NEDs only see interest from conglomerates? Can a NED bring the same benefits and valuable advice to smaller businesses?

Ambitious companies looking for fast-growth are perfect collaborators for the NED. However, a company in this position should consider the following before jumping into any agreements:

What’s your goal?

Before you enrol a NED, you need to know what you want your business to achieve. What are your aspirations? What do you want the business to look like in a year’s, 5 years’, 10 years’ time? What will success look like? Are you planning to expand into different markets, or globally?

There’s not much point inviting a NED to bring focus to your strategy if there is no strategy there. Consider also, if you’re at the right point in your business’ journey to appoint a NED? An honest appraisal of your current position saves time on both sides.

What opportunities can they bring?

When considering which NED to work with, consider the opportunities they may bring with them. For example, can they open doors you’ve previously been unable to open? How well connected are they? What can they do for your business that another NED couldn’t do? Have they the right experience, earned at an appropriate level? What expertise do they bring as an individual? Do you need access to finance? Do you understand the help they plan to bring?

If they’re particularly connected, qualified and laudable, can you afford them, and what systems/measures can you put in place to ensure you get value for your money? Perhaps you plan to award equity in your business to the NED, rather than pay a day rate or alternative; if this is the case, consider that a NED is no longer objective and impartial once they have shares in your business, which could significantly influence the advice they give you.

Are they the right fit?

The best NEDs nudge and steer the companies they work with and challenge the owners’/directors’ thinking. Whilst it’s always nice to hire the person you get on with the most, will they still drive you in the right way, or will you spend more time talking about what you have in common outside of work, off topic? What dynamic will they bring – can they be the trusted, confidential adviser you’re looking for?

Though clashing personalities are not advisable, constructive criticism and the stance of devil’s advocate are both necessary and motivational. Ascertain the kind of support you need to progress, not what’s the easiest and most palatable, and consider whether the NED can deliver this. Ensure you have a contractual agreement that covers expectations from both sides, spelling out any particular issues or boundaries.

Can they commit?

How many hours a month are they able to devote to the growth of your business? What restrictions do they bring? Are they committed to the same goals you are? How long will they be around? Without the same vision and understanding of the work needed to be done, the NED may not prove to be the driving force your business needs.

There’s no doubt that a NED and their support can prove key factors in a thriving business, a short-cut to greater success. As with all business decisions, however, doing your homework and forming plans before jumping in will pay off in the long run.

Angela Sabin is a coach and senior practitioner with over 20 years’ experience of coaching senior management and directors, helping them to take control of their careers or to help them deliver better results. Contact Angela on 01302 220021, or via angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

Thanks to arztsamui at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

Executive bonuses and bulging pay packets: are they deserved?

ID-100240533You can’t look at any newspaper or media outlet without spotting a news story lambasting the bonuses/payoff to the executives of some company, somewhere.

But is the media just stirring the pot?

Members of the Institute of Directors believe executives’ payments of large bonuses are the biggest threat to public trust than any other issue. The majority identified with the public’s anger, particularly if an organisation paying huge bonuses was one found to be mis-selling, or guilty of similar wrongdoing.

The same IoD survey found that more than half of its respondents took more reward from building a successful business; financial benefits were, to them, just the icing on the cake.

Simon Walker, director general of the IoD, identifies that performance related pay is a key driver for executives in high positions. However, he says, the performance of some individuals have not matched the bonuses they’ve received.

Are pay gaps getting bigger?

Some business commenters believe that the premise of the big bonus only encourages the risk-taking that contributed to our country’s current economic woes. The gap between what the top guy earns at the head of a corporation against his front-line workers is not closing in these austere times, but widening exponentially.

For example, the head of Next’s pay was 459 times the average wage of a front-line employee. The pay gap at the media company WPP was even larger; the chief executive’s pay package was almost 800 times more than that of the employees.

A maximum wage?

Calls for a maximum wage to sit at the opposite end of the spectrum to the minimum wage gather pace when outlandish pay bonuses hit the news. Opposition claims such a move would be ‘anti-business’.

Justifying bonuses

Barclays chief executive, Antony Jenkins, defended his 2014 £1.1m bonus in the same year the company cut 14,000 jobs and profits were down by a fifth. Jenkins said, ‘I completely understand that I am very well remunerated for what I do. But, I think it is appropriate that I accept my bonus.’ He demonstrated the progress Barclays had made in the two-and-a-half years he’d been at the helm, and the company’s healthier balance sheet. Mr Jenkins insists the bank is now stronger than at any time since the financial crisis, after announcing a 12% rise in adjusted pre-tax profits.

Iain McKenzie: ‘Why not make teachers’ or nurses’ salaries performance-related?’

Iain McKenzie, MP for Inverclyde says, ‘Growth in executive pay, bonuses, and incentive payments has vastly outpaced performance as measured by every indicator in common use. Even if we do accept the need for performance-related salaries, why do we not expect generals and senior civil servants – let alone nurses or teachers – to be paid millions of pounds a year to perform well?’

Iain’s suggestion is to limit executives’ pay to 100 times that of their average employee’s remuneration. He has little support in government, however, appropriately demonstrated by George Osborne’s recent slating of the EU’s move to cap bankers’ bonuses – branding it ‘illegal’. Iain goes on, ‘Reports say up to 80% of the public support government action to end income inequality’.

How do you feel about executives’ bonuses? Would you turn down a large bonus if it was offered? Would you refuse to add bonuses into your contract of employment when negotiating with a new employer? Would you feel guilty about taking a bonus if it provided your kids with a better education, or you a better pension? If you’d turned round a failing, or less profitable, business, wouldn’t you feel you deserved a small stake of the extra income you’d secured?

Let me know your stance in the comment box below.

Angela Sabin is an executive coach and senior practitioner who helps clients with issues in their career, or life in general. Contact Angela on 01302 220021, or via angela@executive-life-coaching.co.uk.

Thanks to Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.

Are we moving towards gender equality in the workplace, or is the glass ceiling still intact?

ID-100161451I recently wrote a series of articles about issues that could affect the progression of your career – such as obesity, the rising popularity of tattoos, and your visibility as an employee when looking for a promotion.

An issue I only touched on within the obesity post was discrimination against women in the workplace, particularly in senior, board and executive roles. Gender equality is a more talked about subject than ever before, and we’re increasingly conscious about the younger generation and their influences towards traditionally male or female dominated roles. But do these factors mean equality is just around the corner?

Women in the boardroom

Much has been made of the slow but significant rise of women sitting on various boards – mainly because organisations have realised that, in order to sell products to women, they must have accurate – not assumed – insight of them as consumers. That said, statistics show just 23% of board members are women.

This is an improvement – there was only 15% in 2011; however, Britain didn’t make the top twenty in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap survey in 2014. In 26th place, we lagged behind Rwanda and Nicaragua. Norway came amongst the top in the survey, following their decision to make gender quotas law.

One of the unspoken fears of men considering a women for a senior role is the likelihood of her getting pregnant, and the ramifications of her maternity leave absence. Karren Brady has stated that she returned to work within the week she gave birth to her first child, because she feared her career and the reputation she’d so carefully built would suffer. She says, “I thought people would forget me, or that I might even lose my job.”

Times have changed since Karren’s experience a couple of decades ago, not least because of business’ attitudes to flexible working for both genders, and a much-heightened focus on a word/life balance. There are also improved paternity rights for fathers, which allows a family the option of sharing the childcare. Dismissing a woman’s application on these grounds, however subconsciously, is unnecessary in today’s society.

The pay gap

Even when women gain senior jobs, the pay gap between what they earn compared to their male colleagues is, on average, £10,060 less, according to the CMI – and they receive half the bonuses their male counterparts also enjoy. This difference is narrowing, though. Recent figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that the gap went from 10% to 9.4% last year. Before females rejoice in this positive report, this narrowing was due to a drop in men’s wages as opposed to a rise in women’s. Applying this narrowing of the pay gap towards the future means 81 years would pass before pay became equal.

What are the benefits of gender equality in the workplace?

Having a gender-equal workforce improves morale, ensures a wide range of talent and expertise, enforces a company’s reputation and boosts staff engagement. So how can organisations attract more women, or take steps towards a gender-equal culture?

  • Make it easy for staff of both genders to work flexibly. Implement a range of working options, i.e. job sharing, flexitime, working from home, effective use of technology, etc. Encourage staff to embrace such measures so that a flexible culture becomes the norm.
  • Proactively appeal to women when hiring. Make it clear that women are supported and promoted within your organisation, and that their input is valued.

It’s not just women who see gender inequality; according to the Center for American Progress, both sexes agree that pay gaps and discrimination occur, but they have different opinions as to whether things have improved in those areas. 80% of men also support maternity leave, which makes one wonder if discrimination on these grounds is doled out by the same 20%.

35% of men surveyed felt that woman needed to toughen up if they wanted a board or executive position. What’s perhaps most shocking is that almost the exact same percentage of women agreed with this.

Debunking the myths

Project 28-40 was a recent ground-breaking study involving 25,000 women in the UK. A commonly cited lack of ambition was put to rest as a reason women are not reaching top positions; in fact, 70% of both sexes said they had a drive to reach the top. Loyalty was inherent in the women surveyed, demonstrating that if a woman felt supported by her employer when it came to the progress of her career, she was more likely to stay with the firm than male colleagues in the same situation.

Gender equality is not the taboo subject it once was, but it’s clear from these findings that there is a long way to go before equality is intrinsic in every workplace. The glass ceiling may have cracked but it’s not shattered just yet.

Angela Sabin is an executive coach who helps her clients succeed and progress within their career, and also remove obstacles having an impact on their life in general. Contact Angela on 01302 220021 or at angela.sabin@executive-life-coaching.co.uk for a free, no obligation chat about your needs and circumstances.


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