Three tips (and a catch) for a revolution in the career of women

11 October 2017
Executive Education INCAE

Young women starting careers now probably think their prospects for business success have never looked so favorable, although they certainly look better than they did in their mothers' days. 

Under pressure from activists and some government officials, and with growing evidence that gender diversity in business is beneficial, companies have increased their efforts to recruit, retain and promote women. 

Two recent studies of top positions around the world suggest that these efforts have begun to pay off, albeit slowly. According a study by professional services firm Grant Thornton in 5.500 businesses in 36 economies, they found that the proportion of women in management has reached the highest point of all time, with 25%, one point above 2016 and six points above the 2004 percentage.

A study by the consulting firm Egon Zehnder, which targeted 44 countries, disclosed that women made up 19% of corporate board members in 2016, including directors without executive powers, more than the 14% registered four years earlier.

The problem is that things are improving, but not evenly. Grant Thornton's study concluded that companies without women in senior positions have risen to 34%; Egon Zehnder found that companies in 15 countries had regressed in terms of sexual diversity

These data suggest that while some companies make considerable progress, others there are still pending struggles to attract and retain a diverse workforce. 

Thats why he Financial Times asked recruiting and leadership experts, as well as women who have navigated their way into senior roles in corporations, what companies can do to improve sexual diversity at all levels of their workforce. Here are three positive suggestions and one catch to avoid: 

Making diversity goals public increases engagement and measurement of progress.

“I believe in objectives. Is brave. By setting a number there, you measure it and for the entire organization it shows that this matters, ”says Karoline Vinsrygg, who heads the Egon Zehnder Global Diversity Council. "We need a revolution here, instead of just waiting for things to get better," he adds.

Start from the bottom and lead from the top.

Grant Thornton's Francesca Lagerberg argues that efforts to improve sexual diversity must begin with recruiting workers from low levels. The only way to carry the message inside the home is to show the commitment from the highest level, because people will talk about it and what is said matters. "They want to hire people at higher levels who can be role models, but what they really need is to invest the long term in their employees," says Vinsrygg, convinced that "it takes 30 years to form a CEO."

Accept that women can follow non-traditional career plans. 

"Prejudices often cause notable declines in talent among women because some employers assume that women are not engaged if they want to let go of the accelerator at times," explains Catherina Britten, who spent six years taking care of her young children and is now a partner. at AlixPartners, the global business advisors. It argues that employers should help employees match their evolving life goals with the needs of the business. This brings great long-term benefits, especially with female employees.

Beware of the trap of taking the 'easy' route!

Many companies choose to write mission statements that affirm their support for diversity and highlight how people make sexist assumptions about others. Both are well-intentioned, but can backfire if not backed by deeper change, warns Sarah Kaplan, who heads the Institute for Gender and Economics at the University of Toronto's Rotman school of business. It can cause a feeling of guilt in the majority staff and a feeling of being singled out for the minority. It is necessary to accompany these declarations with hiring and promotion, as well as concrete responsibilities in the leaders regarding the progress of those goals. 

Excerpt from the article “Strategies for a revolution in careers for women”, published on the Financial Times website.


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Program focused on developing the competencies of women at a personal, organizational and environmental level, as well as the capacities that men and women need to create collaborative environments that lead to the transformation and sustainable and profitable growth of their businesses.

Dates: From November 27 to December 1, 2017.
Location: Biltmore Hotel, Miami
Country: United States

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Emerging Leaders Program for Women - ELPW

The ELPW will provide its participants the opportunity to identify the value proposition of their personal brand; it will give them tools for obtaining and managing power and generating influence; it will provide them with information about the competencies that the environment demands today and, finally, it will allow them to start the design of a successful professional career. 

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