Challenge and Change – Women in Leadership

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Nicki Aitken, IAMCP UK Diversity & Inclusion Chair, shares her experience and thoughts from the Challenge and Change panel held at the Houses of Commons 

houses of parliament

I was privileged to be invited to a Challenge and Change panel discussion at the House of Commons earlier this month – led by

-  Flick Drummond, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South and a member of the Women & Equalities Select Committee 

- Jo Churchill, Member of Parliament for Bury St Edmunds 

- Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Member of Parliament for Tooting and Shadow Minister for Culture, Media and Sport 

What was very clear is that women certainly do have a significant contribution to make in leading cultural change and driving a model of collaborative and distributed leadership. Recent research has confirmed that support for leadership development is key to enabling more female leaders to progress.

It is concerning to think that women comprise only 40% of middle managers, 20% at senior levels and less than half that at CEO positions.

Publication of a landmark report by the Women and Work All Party Parliamentary Group, which focused on women returners included recommendations that every workplace with more than 250 employees should carry a carers’ policy and consider introducing “Return-ships”. 

Why should females or males for that matter be discriminated against for taking a career break – “social capital” on CV’s should be welcomed. Less than 10% of men take up parental leave either seen as weak or would be held against them in future career progression. We need to re-evaluate what we consider as the cultural norm and together create the “new normal”.

Another statistic quoted, gender pay parity wouldn’t be achieved until 2067 was frightening – we need change and we need to start now.

Moving forward from the session, three project groups have been formed:

1. Mentoring – Leadership Values: Tackling the Glass Ceiling in a Positive & Sustainable Way:

How do you change bullying behavioural patterns?

2. Recruitment Bias – Accelerating to enable the Cultural Change to take place

3. Technology as an Enabler – Anywhere and Anytime Working

Proven model to increase Productivity and Efficiency could be one of the solutions to maternity/ paternity challenges

The plan is to identify strategies to increase diversity and opportunity within the work ecosystem and explore the successful traits needed to move forward.

I read with interest recently an article in the Sunday Times focusing on the thousands of highly qualified women who give up their jobs to raise children then struggle to return to their careers - “The Forgotten Army” summarised by a quote from Maria Miller MP, a mother of three with a 20-year career in advertising, keen to see a legislation to make all jobs flexible:

“We need to finally take off the emperor’s new clothes and makes laws to modify the 19th century work model when women had a peripheral role….then a job for life was a sign of success, but now it’s a thing of the past. We may all live several lives – changing careers, caring, taking time out for new pursuits. And the future will demand educated, adaptable, resilient people who can rise to new challenges”

Everyone can reach their potential –  we all need to be able to give them that opportunity and #BeBoldforChange