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Why the workplace just isn’t working for all women

With concerns over the rising cost of living and talk of recession in the air, we need as much economic prosperity as is humanly possible right now.

A good place to start might be the £250 billion that the government-backed Rose Review found female entrepreneurs would add to the economy if they were able to start and scale their businesses at the same rate as men.

And we need more women leaders. New research by Frank Recruitment shows that companies with female CEOs are more profitable. It doesn’t take a genius to see that women are fundamental to the economy. With just nine female CEOs in the FTSE100, there’s a long way to go.

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The state of play 

There have been initiatives over the past decade to get more women into positions of power. Some have worked: the FTSE Women Leaders Review recently announced that the FTSE350 has hit 40.2% women on boards for the first time and two years ahead of target. But the work can’t stop there. 

According to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2022 report, women are still facing a ‘broken rung’ on the career ladder. For every 100 men promoted from entry-level to management, only 87 women are being promoted, and only 82 women of colour.

The result? Men significantly outnumber women at a managerial level.

From that very first step, there are simply fewer of us in the pool to go onto senior leadership roles.


‘A problem solved’ 

Too many times, in recent months, I have spoken to male business leaders and DEI committees and been told that they are ‘done with the woman thing,' as if we are a box to be ticked.

Little wonder then, that over half of women in the UK want to leave their employer in the next two years. Further data from the AllBright Future of Work survey found just 10% of women plan to stay with their current employer for more than five years, citing burnout, stress and balance as their biggest career challenges currently.

Yet there is a mass of data to suggest that women do stay in their roles longer and can progress further if properly supported.  

So what can we do? 

We need a cultural shift, and fast. Particularly as we move away from traditional office-based working, it’s vital that businesses ensure women aren’t victims of proximity bias – overlooked for promotions because they’re not physically there. 

To get more female candidates into positions where they can step into leadership roles in the first place, we need to be supporting women at all stages of their careers and making sure they have the visibility and empowerment to progress.  

What women are recognising is that it’s no longer about merely getting a seat at the table. The table wasn’t built for us, or by us. Instead of trying to fit ourselves around it, we need to remodel it entirely and benefit from new frameworks that are created with our success in mind.  

That includes: 

  • More visibility for women 
  • Women recruited and promoted at every level 
  • Childcare and caregiving support  
  • To be paid for all work, such as voluntary ERG roles 

If we do all this, we might just start to get somewhere.  

The recently launched AllBright Alliance aims to do just that. We’re working with some of the world’s largest companies to create frameworks that better support the women in their workforce and nurture the female leaders of tomorrow.

We’re at an inflection point as a society and we have a choice: back women in business, or lose out on the huge amount of extra economic prosperity that all our communities need right now. 

If businesses don’t act soon, they risk not only losing their current female managers but the female leaders of the future. So I’d like to call on responsible leaders to get involved. This isn’t a DEI issue, it’s something that requires us all to put structures in place to have women’s wealth and wellbeing at the forefront of our minds.  

Not because a box needs ticking, not even because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do, but because it’s good for business. We do a better job as a society, when we are better represented, both male and females. That’s my mission for 2023 at AllBright. Join us. 

Viviane Paxinos is CEO of AllBright


In celebration of International Women's Day HR magazine will be posting articles throughout March highlighting ways to challenge barriers to gender equity in the workplace. Read more here.