Lack of Female Leaders means a Loss of Talent in Boardrooms

by Gillian Johnson

I recently read an article in the Yorkshire Post, noting a “disastrous loss of real talent” found in businesses due to the lack of female directors in the county’s biggest 150 companies. The precise numbers state that only 12 percent of the directorships in these companies were filled by women.

The under representation of women at the top of the UK’s corporate ladder is not a new issue; merely one of the problems in the business world that hasn’t really been sorted yet.

Yes, long gone are the times where a woman’s only job in the office was stuck in front of a typewriter, using the photo-copier or on the front desk of a reception area. An office workforce is much more diversified from where we were 50 years ago and, no matter your gender, there are very few jobs you should feel like you’re ‘not fit for’ because of whether you are woman or man. Soldiers’, police officers’, engineers’ and a prime-ministers’ shoes have all been filled by women and will continue to do so in the future.

Yet, the emergence of women in the workplace hasn’t translated as well in the boardrooms of the country.

Why is this the case?

Some say, like COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, that it’s because women “unintentionally hold themselves back” in their careers, meaning there voice goes unnoticed in the vastly male-dominated boardrooms of businesses.

Others think that lifestyle choices of women versus men dramatically changes the outcomes of their professional life; as one example, women are more likely to start working less hours in exchange to tend to their children. The PwC’s ‘Women in Work’ Index shows that in countries where a more equal proportion of females to males in director positions, such as Norway, both mothers and fathers share the workload of raising a family and promote a healthier work/life balance for both genders in comparison to the UK.

Either way, more needs to be done by the business world to look at this trend and try to address it properly. In most industries, 50% of graduates recruited are female, yet (in the context of Yorkshire) nearly 80% never make it to the top. Research shows that the more diverse boardrooms are, there is a higher likelihood that business being successful, which goes to show what talent is lost if women don’t make it to the top.

So what can be done? Whatever it is, it can’t be a ‘quick fix’. Quotas to improve the number of women in leadership positions is a start, but not necessarily the best tool to change the definitive culture of building diverse workforces at all experience levels.

What we need to do is, empower more women to step up and be counted for their talent and what they could bring to a business when put in high-level job positions. The sooner we do it, the sooner businesses across the nation will see the benefits.