Inspiring women – a Message to Leaders: "If not now, when? If not you, who?"

18 September 2014

Guest blogger Helen Pitcher -

Chairman of Advanced Boardroom Excellence - a leading board effectiveness consultancy - says that a new report shows a changing focus towards the diversity agenda.

When surveying the landscape of Board effectiveness there are many competing issues vying for the Board’s attention.  Our new report, Diversity - Riding The Waves of the Executive Pipeline, looks at the diversity agenda through the eyes of 70 successful women leaders and provides an insight into the extraordinary waste of female talent being overlooked.  If a Board were ‘wasting’ any other resource available to the company to such an extent, their tenure would be short lived indeed.

The focus on female talent in organisations goes beyond the target of 25% female representation on Boards, and as Lord Davies suggested in his report, it hits at the heart of the organisation through the diversity of the Executive Committee and the talent pipeline supplying it.

Our report suggests an Agenda for Change for leaders with recommendations focused at the levels of organisational leadership, leaders of organisational change and for individuals themselves. Below are some of the key recommendations:

For Organisational Leaders

  • Gender balance in the workplace should not be seen as a “women’s issue” but a business issue that will drive productivity
  • Changes that address gender balance will ultimately help organisations manage everyone better, and create true meritocracies
  • Boards should lead by taking an active interest in the executive pipeline, and whether it is being fed from the full range of the organisation’s available talent.

For Leaders of Organisational Change

  • Men and women talk differently about themselves and their careers. A better awareness of this can remove hidden barriers to women’s advancement
  • The language of challenge and success is different for women and minorities
  • Women and minorities may undersell themselves, not because of a lack of confidence or self-esteem, but because their view of communication and self-promotion is different.

For Individual Women

  • Be proactive in managing your career – seek out CV-building roles and assignments
  • Find mentors and sponsors who will improve your confidence and your profile
  • Cultivate resilience.

Unless we change the corporate executive pipeline to become more diverse, a sufficient supply of new candidates won’t be available for executive committees, or, by extension, for Boards. Our challenge to Boards is that they should take on the same accountability, responsibility and engagement for the diversity of the executive pipeline as they have been forced to adopt for the Board itself.

The full report is available at http://www.abexcellence.com/research/ and you can follow the conversation online using #womenleadership

And check out the CMI/Women in Management report, Women in Management: tackling the talent pipeline, here.

Read more opinions