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Top business role models dominated by ageing men, CMI study shows

A 'role model revolution' is needed to bring more women into executive positions, according to the chief executive of Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Ann Francke, who is also the author of the FT's Guide To Management, told HR magazine: "If you look at the top ten people British workers cite as role models, only two are women (Margaret Thatcher and Mother Teresa) and both of them are dead," she said.

One the eve of International Women's Day, the survey of 1,700 British workers states that only 25% of women have ambitions to be at board level in 2025, compared to 38% of men.

Francke also picked up on the point that 44% of women say they do not have a role model within their own organisation.

"We need to find a way to get young women talking to the women that are already there at the top. We need to increase the numbers of women in executive roles, and one of the ways to do this is better access to the role models we already have," she said.

Cary Cooper, distinguished professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School, agreed that women need more inspiration from the top to succeed.

"Where there are women at the top companies, we need to be getting them out there. Lists like the HR Most Influential and other awards are great opportunities to make women's achievements public."

Cooper also claimed that HR has a big part to play in this. "When you have HR directors on the boards this tends to help. They need to drive this change. Diversity brings results for companies. This is a well-established fact and people need to act on it," he said.

Getting women on boards is important, but Cooper thinks progress needs to be made at all levels of organisations.

"Getting women at the very top isn't going to happen unless we increase the numbers in all parts of an organisation. We need to increase the pipeline of women throughout businesses," he said.

Top ten role models for British workers:

Richard Branson

Nelson Mandela

Margaret Thatcher

Alan Sugar

Barack Obama

Steve Jobs

Mother Teresa

Tony Blair

John Harvey-Jones