‘Narrative’ around power must change to improve diversity

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The narrative around power needs to change in order to encourage more women to aspire to leadership positions, according to a report by the Center for Talent Innovation.

According to the Women Want Five Things report, 65% of women in the UK and 60% of women in the US believe that the burdens of leadership outweigh the rewards.

Co-author of the report Melinda Marshall told HR magazine that the perception of power needs to shift to make leadership positions more attractive to women.

“We are always focused in the media on women’s narrative around their struggle, but we never put the question to men about how their job has made it difficult for them to be a father,” she said. “We need to change our narrative around what incredible impact the agency leadership affords to these women.”

Marshall added that companies should create ‘sponsorship’ relationships between senior leaders and more junior women as these are more powerful than the traditional mentor relationship.

“Sponsorship gives junior women the opportunity to promote themselves and get their name in front of senior people,” she said.

Commenting on the report, EY managing partner Liz Bingham, who was recently awarded an OBE for her services to equality in the workplace, told HR magazine women need to see more female role models in senior positions.

“The 30% tipping point [for women at the top] is no accident,” she said. “When we get to that stage we can then encourage more women to look up and say ‘well actually I can see a mother there’ or ‘I can see somebody who looks like me’.”

The five things women want

According to the report, companies should focus on five key areas:

1. Help women flourish: By promoting health and wellbeing and supporting work-life balance
2. Help women excel: By offering leadership development programmes and partnering with business schools
3. Help women reach for meaning and purpose: By working with communities and causes
4. Help women empower others – and be empowered: By connecting women in the top jobs with each other and arranging formal sponsorship relationships with more junior women
5. Help women to earn well: By re-engaging those women who have taken a career break and helping them back into the workforce

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