Addressing gender inequality with a culture of career mobility

Addressing gender inequality with a culture of career mobility

A topic at the heart of gender inequality within the workplace is career mobility. And questions around whether women have access to the same development opportunities as men, remain top-of-mind for many employees and organisations.

Research has found that on average, women would have to work nearly 40 years longer than men in order to achieve pension parity, while certain industries remain notoriously inaccessible for women – with 84% of female university students saying they’ve never had a career in technology suggested to them.

So, what can business leaders do to ensure all employees receive an equal opportunity to advance their careers?

Upskill managers to support employees

Managers play a key role in the development of their team members, and it’s imperative that they provide each individual with access to confidential and open career conversations. This allows employees to identify the different career pathways available to them, and take ownership of their development.

However, all the responsibility cannot fall onto the manager’s shoulders. It’s the duty of business leaders to provide managers and employees with the skills, resources and confidence to have these conversations. And sufficient training will ensure managers are better equipped to provide individually tailored support, that’s directly aligned to the values and drivers of each employee.

After all, not everyone will want to progress in the typical sense of moving up the hierarchical ladder. Since the start of lockdown, mothers are 1.5 times more likely to have lost or quit their job than fathers due to increased responsibilities at home. In fact, 44% of women say they’ve taken on more domestic responsibilities than their partner during the pandemic, resulting in over 40% believing their career has been put on hold.

Managers must therefore ensure their female employees have access to upskilling and development opportunities, without the expectation that this requires taking on a larger workload that could impact their work-life balance.

Role model success at all levels

Research has found that women have fewer leadership prospects than men, even when they’re operating in female-dominated roles. And while steps are being taken to address the issue of an underrepresentation of women in senior roles, we’re still a long way away from achieving gender parity.

It shouldn’t only be senior women who have access to development opportunities. Organisations need to create a culture where role models are present at all levels of the business – successful women who’ve become experts in their field, or who’ve worked across different areas of the organisation in pursuit of learning and development.

It’s these individuals who female employees across the business can relate to and aspire to emulate. Without these role models, no organisation can hope to create a positive culture of career mobility  – a point reiterated by giffgaff’s Chief Product and Design Officer Carlotta Negri di Sanfront, in an interview with Executive Grapevine:

“I came to realise the terrible impact a lack of female representation in various industries can have on young girls wishing to pursue careers that are male-dominated. No matter what that career might be, if there are no relatable role models within it, the burden of conventions can seem impossible to challenge.”

Provide mentoring and sponsorship programmes

Encouraging connections to internal mentors and sponsors, either through a formal programme or via individual-led activity, is an important step in developing the female talent pool. A mentor provides objective insight, helping identify upskilling and development opportunities to enhance their mentee’s employability.

A sponsor works to forge networking opportunities: ensuring female employees are better positioned to improve their visibility and grow their industry and organisational profile. This way, women across the business will have access to someone who can guide them in their career progression; to act as a sounding board for ideas around career decisions, and to open doors to new development opportunities.

Such programmes have been shown to create improved career opportunities for women, as Sharon Thorne, Global Chair for Deloitte, states:

“We’ve already seen the positive impact this kind of sponsorship can have on women, and on our organisation. For example, just this year, following a wide-scale, concerted effort to give talented women leadership opportunities, the number of women on our global board jumped from 16% to 30%.”

So, during International Women’s Month, how will your organisation #ChooseToChallenge with a culture of career mobility?