The C-Suite Challenge: Offer More Opportunities to Women

Gender parity is only possible when leaders actively work to create opportunities for women to advance.
By: | March 8, 2019 • 2 min read

Just in time for International Women’s Day, Korn Ferry and The Conference Board released a new report highlighting the progress of women in business as well as the work that still needs to be done to achieve gender equality. The report, Effective Leadership Development Strategies at Pivotal Points for Women: Chief Human Resources Officers and Senior HR Leaders Speak, included the findings of a survey of 291 HR executives—74 percent of whom were women.

The researchers found 62 percent of respondents believe that female representation in leadership positions has improved over the last five years, however, 66 percent said that their organizations have inadequate female representation in leadership roles today. Additionally, 65 percent of respondents agreed there isn’t enough female representation in the C-suite.

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The two most common reasons respondents gave for the lack of representation are that too few women are in the pipeline to fill leadership roles (50 percent) and women aren’t gaining the necessary experiences to help them advance into leadership (40 percent).

“In this study, we identified two pivotal points where women’s representation drops significantly: first-line leaders and senior leaders,” said Beatrice Grech-Cumbo, senior client partner and leader of Advancing Women Worldwide at Korn Ferry. “While organizations are focused on increasing the representation of women in senior leadership, it is equally important to work to place women in the first-line manager roles. This point in the pipeline significantly impacts the promotion pool of female talent.”

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The report includes several necessary steps to take to help women advance across an organization. Some of which include:

  • Challenging women early in their careers;
  • Redesigning talent-management systems to alleviate bias and disrupt historical TA practices (homogenous hiring);
  • Creating an intentionally inclusive environment;
  • Providing unique, differentiated development opportunities;
  • Designing a sponsorship program for female advancement opportunities; and
  • Offering stretch assignments and personalized leadership experiences.

“HR and business executives need to take a step back to better understand and address the systemic reasons behind the gender imbalance,” said Rebecca L. Ray, executive vice president of human capital at The Conference Board. “Reasons include pay inequity, hiring manager bias and accountability, a lack of sponsors and champions, as well as the lack of programmatic support for the integration of work and life.”

Danielle Westermann King is a former staff writer for HRE.