· 1 min read · Features

How to get more women into top positions

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A Women's Business Council report released last month stated that increasing the number of women in a workforce would dramatically boost the UK's economic growth.

It added that if women were represented in the same number as men, GDP would increase by 10%. So, how can businesses break down the barriers that are stopping women from getting into top-level positions and entering traditionally male-dominated sectors such as construction, engineering and oil and gas?

HR magazine asked Karen Gill (pictured), co-founder of campaign group Everywoman, for her views:

"Women are vital to the economy. Addressing the leaky female talent pipeline will enable a greater representation of women throughout business from the bottom to the top. Everywoman recognises this, as do business and Government. We all get the 'why', but the 'how' is a bit more challenging.

Everywoman recently carried out research on this issue with female middle managers and HR leaders. The HR leaders told us they were keen to improve the talent pipeline of women in their businesses, but some did not know where to start.

First, focus on the business case for gender diversity. There is a lot of research showing companies with a greater number of women in senior positions deliver stronger organisational and financial performance, and better returns for shareholders.

Also, include female middle managers in succession planning. According to our research, female middle managers think the problem of career progression is more significant than HR leaders do. Involving them in the succession planning process would go some way to addressing these different perceptions.

Extending flexible working options further down the pipeline would help combat some of the reasons women drop out of work, the most significant being childcare. Reshape female middle managers' relationship with senior women role models to help inspire and/or mentor high-potential talent.

Finally, and most importantly, encourage female middle managers to take greater responsibility for their careers. Giving women the tools and resources they need to take charge of their development is one of the most effective ways of doing this.

I would encourage all women, from directors to graduates, to ringfence an hour a week to focus on their career goals and ambitions in order to implement a plan to make their aspirations a reality. I would recommend that companies endorse and support their female employees to do this."