Despite efforts by many organisations to create gender diversity initiatives and policies to include more women in senior leadership roles, many women were still reluctant to take the career leap.
According to new research conducted by professional services recruiter, Morgan McKinley Australia, nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of women believe that having a child impacts on their ability to achieve their career goals.
But its not just women that felt this way, about 53 per cent of men also said having a child impacted on their career opportunities.
The poll, which involved 873 professionals on the Morgan McKinley database was part of a larger piece of research completed early this year, which focused on mid- and senior-level female managers.
It reveals some of the reasons why, despite all the pro-diversity emphasis, initiatives and policies of recent years, Australian boardrooms continue to be occupied predominantly by men.
“These latest findings highlight a mismatch: organisations are introducing programs of flexible working but women are often reluctant, or lack the confidence, to apply for senior roles. As a result, organisations are forced to look for new leaders in a limited talent pool,” Morgan McKinley joint managing director, Vanessa Harding-Farrenberg, said.
“To address this situation, organisations need to be much more supportive of women who are in their first and second management roles. This is the time when women may be starting a family and are thrown outside of their comfort zone."
Despite 80 per cent of organisation’s offering some form of flexible working, 30 per cent of respondents indicated they chose not to apply for a promotion in the past year, with 60 per cent indicating the main reason as not being able to sustain work/life balance in a more senior post.
While 29 per cent said management didn’t support them and 33 per cent of respondents said they didn’t feel the organisation would continue to support flexible working arrangements in a promoted role.
About 77 per cent indicated they would like a tailored approach to flexible working to meet individual needs rather than a blanket provision.
Careful coaching, visible role models and providing women with the tools they need early in their careers, will ensure they can take positive ownership of their careers, Harding-Farrenberg advised.
Respondents also said that mentoring, sponsorship, earlier promotion opportunities and flexible working would have helped them realise they can achieve their career goals.
The bottom line is that it’s important to show that it’s possible to combine a senior leadership role with having a life.
Top tips for organisations
- Leadership - Ensure that your organisation’s leadership is fully committed to and engaged in creating an inclusive culture and this will benefit not just female talent but all talent.
- Be transparent and proactive - Avoid obscure promotion processes and actively encourage women who might lack the confidence to apply for a promotion. Ensure managers are clear that supporting their star talent is a priority.
- Avoid one-size fits all approaches - Survey results show that individuals respond favourably to being treated as individuals, with unique needs.
- Create balanced short lists - make sure at least one female is on your shortlist
- Avoid complacency - show you care - Many respondents indicated they do not feel supported and encouraged, even if superficially their organisations offer flexible working and other highly valued arrangements.