How apprenticeships are developing new female leaders

06 March 2017 -


Training, educating and inspiring talented women, the CMI’s Management Apprenticeships are at the forefront of nurturing the 1.5 million new women managers needed by 2024

Jermaine Haughton

Bringing different ideas, perspectives and approaches to business, women in management positions lead to a more inclusive workplace and often better performance for their company.

CMI’s Management Apprenticeships have been a bold, practical solution for providing women the opportunity to develop their management skills and experience in the workplace, while connecting employers with potentially their next generation of future leaders.

Disproving the gender stereotypes of the managerial position and ‘think manager-think male’ attitude, employers get an opportunity to garner first-hand experience and embrace the fruitful innovation, and creativity of female management apprentices, as they get involved in strategic planning, managing projects, supporting colleagues and leading teams.

As such, CMI is calling on employers to start higher-level apprenticeships as a route to promoting gender diversity in their workforces.

“To achieve gender balance by 2024, the UK will need an additional 1.5 million women managers,” said CMI director of strategy Petra Wilton. “Apprenticeships have a leading role to play by supporting women at all stages of their careers to progress through management. From those starting out in the world of work to those looking to push on in their careers, management and leadership apprenticeships are helping to equip women with the skills needed to progress and to help fill the ‘Missing Middle’ creating the talent pipeline to the top.

“However, with only 13% of employers aware of the new Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, far more needs to be done to encourage businesses to ensure an inclusive, diverse and more productive talent pipeline. This is particularly important in sectors like STEM that are struggling to attract female professionals.”

To help the UK achieve its target for boosting the number of women managers, CMI has been on the campaign path driving up support for their ‘Missing Middle’ campaign.

The #missingmiddle campaign now has a reach of some 1.5 million people on social media and momentum is gathering. New CMI Women chair Heather Melville was on Sky News to discuss female entrepreneurs (you can watch the video below), while CMI’s own Petra Wilton has appeared on BBC Business Live.

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And on International Women’s Day CMI chief executive Ann Francke attended a reception at 10 Downing Street to discuss the challenges of getting more female leaders on the ground.

Want to help? Then why not join CMI Women and make a difference

But despite all this hard work, the gender pay gap still prevails.

CMI and XpertHR‘s own research has revealed that male managers are 40% more likely than female managers to be promoted into senior and higher-paying roles in the UK, while the gender pay gap fails to close.

This is despite a plethora of research showing fairer representation of women in senior positions boosts company performance and valuation. Companies with at least 30% female leaders had net profit margins up to six percentage points higher than companies with no women in the top ranks, according to a global study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics and professional services firm EY.

Traditionally ‘apprenticeships’ have been male-dominated positions in primarily industrial companies, such as engineering, factory and energy firms. But the recent influx of apprenticeships across virtually every sector possible – from the creative arts to finance to healthcare – has seen perceptions begin to change, with women now seizing upon the opportunities too.

The Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship offers the triple guarantee of a quality degree, on-the-job experience and a professional pathway for future development. This Trailblazer Apprenticeship has been developed by a group of employers, in partnership with a number of Higher Education Institutions (Providers) and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

According to latest new numbers from the Skills Funding Agency, more than half (53%) of all apprenticeship starts were by women (268,730). More women have started apprenticeships than men every year since 2010/11.

Of those who have started the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, 46.5% are women – providing a new pipeline of women into management.

Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills Robert Halfon said: “It is essential that people can get on the ladder of opportunity and get on in the world of work, regardless of how old they are or their background.

“It’s fantastic that 53% of new apprentices are women but we’re not stopping there. We have been working hard to make sure that employers take on apprentices with disabilities, from BAME backgrounds and women in sectors they are under-represented. Our new Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network, which is made up of 23 employers, will also make sure apprenticeships can work for as many people as possible.”

Since joining business process outsourcer Sitel, Gemma Strain, 24, has completed not one, but two apprenticeships with Intec Business College, in Customer Service and Sales and she has just completed a CMI Level 3 Apprenticeship in Management and Leadership.

An award-winning Team Manager, Gemma helps to inspire others in her role as Sitel’s company Ambassador for training, and insists her Management Apprenticeship gave her the confidence to succeed.

She said: “The main thing I’ve learnt through doing my diploma is confidence; I now have faith that what I am doing is correct. Confidence is so important and has a knock on effect in so many aspects of my job, not least my role in motivating the team.

“Without doing the diploma, I certainly wouldn’t be as confident, it’s given me the kick up the butt I needed! I’ve never been good with words, English was my downfall, but the fact that I’ve had to write essays has really improved my writing. I’ve also been able to practice public speaking in a safe environment, which has given me a real boost when I’m pitching to clients or even talking to the team— I’m the manager of the campaign after all! I’d encourage more people to sign up for this course as it’s been so useful in my development.”

On 6 March, CMI hosted an event to discuss the new trailblazer apprenticeships and their potential to support women’s progression in management.

At the event, women apprentices studying on the new degree apprenticeships at companies including BT, Atkins, Nestle and IBM shared their experiences. Speakers included Sue Husband, Director of the Skills Funding Agency, who has herself started a Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship via Open University.

She said: “I’m delighted to be celebrating the role of apprenticeships in supporting women’s career progression during National Apprenticeship Week. Too many women at the outset of their careers, or those returning from family commitments, struggle to find appropriate work-based learning opportunities.

“Apprenticeships provide progression through to higher level skills, and this is raising aspirations from a much wider talent pool. I’m particularly proud to be a role model in continuing my own professional development by undertaking the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship with Open University.”

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