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Help me explain why having women in senior roles matters

(79 Posts)
badbadhusky Wed 18-Oct-17 07:20:17

I have a new boss. He's reshuffled his senior team and there are now fewer women in key roles and decision-making groups. It's a source of long-stanging ill feeling with many of my female colleagues. We discussed it and he says it doesn't matter as much as I think it does, that he's a really fair person. I managed to land a couple of points about the importance of role models - younger women being able to see "people like me" in senior roles - and how its not good enough to do the right thing, you have to be seen to do the right thing & balanced committes etc show that. He's the kind of person who responds really well to evidence. Can anyone point to resources and research evidence which demonstrste the importance of this?

QuentinSummers Wed 18-Oct-17 08:02:30

Recent report about it linked from this article. It's about IT but covers what you are discussing

Matilda1981 Wed 18-Oct-17 08:04:07

Depends how old they are but I wouldn't employ a woman into a top role if she was likely to go off in maternity leave!!

Believeitornot Wed 18-Oct-17 08:05:39

Link to evidence hmm one of those types (your boss I mean).

Well where is his evidence that it doesn’t matter who’s at the top....? Why did he end up in a position where he moved women out of key roles?

I’ve only got anecdotes eg as a senior woman with children, plenty of younger female colleagues have come up to me to say how much they value having someone “like them” “break the glass ceiling”.

Believeitornot Wed 18-Oct-17 08:06:25

@Matilda1981thats a disgraceful attitude. Disgraceful.
Especially as men take paternity leave - I know a couple of senior dads who’ve taken months out.

SpaghettiAndMeatballs Wed 18-Oct-17 08:08:46

Depends how old they are but I wouldn't employ a woman into a top role if she was likely to go off in maternity leave!!

More fool you then. Men can take parental leave now by the way - so your (illegal) sexism is going to come back to bite you. In the meantime, that just leaves more, excellent, senior women for me to employ. And if they go off on maternity, so be it - they can come back part time/fulltime/flexitime and we'll work around it, they're humans with lives, and I find that if I'm flexible, then when something happens that means I need them to work late to fix an emergency, then they will be flexible too - it cuts both ways.

A good employee is worth keeping, and a good employer keeps their good employees (have you seen recruitment fees recently! Definitely better to keep hold of employees!)

everybodysang Wed 18-Oct-17 08:11:14

Matilda that is repellent, and fortunately illegal.

SpaghettiAndMeatballs Wed 18-Oct-17 08:13:01

As to your boss OP - there's also the other thing that if he's done this, and the women are feeling disgruntled, then they are more likely to start looking for a new job, and if they're good, you don't want them doing that. - ie. seniority needs to be maintained and performance rewarded for women too, despite the fact that women are less likely to move around as a rule, because eventually you will basically force them out with this treatment.

badbadhusky Wed 18-Oct-17 08:21:56

Thank you Quentin - that article is very helpful.

It's not that he's deliberately ousted women, although aligning some committee membership around specific organisational roles (which are heavily male-occupied) has indirectly resulted in fewer women. My main gah! was that the reshuffle was a missed opportunity to broaden things out. confused

QueenOfTheSardines Wed 18-Oct-17 08:38:28

"he says it doesn't matter as much as I think it does, that he's a really fair person"


he's a dick

I doubt he will listen to anything you say.

However there are a few approaches:

1. Right thing to do - he's not going to be interested
2. Orgs with more balance make more money. This he might respond to
3. Are you a company with HR? Are they making noises about women? Are senior management making noises about more women? This is quite popular at the moment in my sector and though change is slow (!) they claim to be committed to it. The driver is point 2 but they do a lot of talk around point 1. If your org is into this at the moment then pointing out that he will be aligned with senior management aims and can then flag as a progressive part of the business will earn him kudos. Might be worth a try.

QueenOfTheSardines Wed 18-Oct-17 08:40:31

badbadhusky Wed 18-Oct-17 08:52:52

Yes, we are a large organisation with good HR. The higher ups are also keen to get more women into senior roles - lots of investment in leadership training etc. My boss is one of the good ones, just a bit naive/under-briefed about this stuff. On a personal level, he's done a lot to mentor and support women. I find the mismatch most odd.

CherryChasingDotMuncher Wed 18-Oct-17 10:00:49

Depends how old they are but I wouldn't employ a woman into a top role if she was likely to go off in maternity leave!!

Very much hoping you don’t run a business with a blasé attitude to breaking the law. Men can have shared parental leave now you know.

Fruitboxjury Wed 18-Oct-17 10:09:20

I'm a female former senior employee of a large organisation. I think your boss needs to demonstrate how his choices are right for your firm, evidence is one thing but essentially the best appointments in any team are putting the people most qualified and suited in role regardless of their background.

I also think that the number of women in senior roles in any organisation should at the very minimum be reflective of the approximate ratio of m/f staff. If should be an inclusive environment where opportunity is available to all, ambition is encouraged, the process is transparent and promotions are awarded on merit and talent.

I think if the right people are put in post it's obvious to all, again regardless of background. These questions often come up when someone better could have been appointed and has been overlooked, do you think thats the case here?

I think having a structure which is mindful of the importance of visibility of senior women sends a very clear message to an organisation that it is an equal opportunity employer, but I am also very much against over promoting people just because of a target based model. I know of people who made background (I won't be specific) a key feature of their business case and threatened to leave the organisation to pursue opportunities elsewhere if they weren't promoted. Needless to say they ended up vastly under experienced for the position in which they found themselves and left the organisation before getting into trouble.

Likewise, I think it depends on the type of woman who is being promoted. Just because someone is female it doesn't mean they're going to be a good role model for all other women. Likewise, I have know many male managers who have been huge advocates for empowering women and facilitating a good work-life balance as much as possible. Some of my best bosses have been men - it's the type of person that matters too. One of our most senior women famously returned to work four weeks after having all three children to work all hours, whilst her husband took on the role of stay at home parent. The other female managers were mostly women who for whatever reason did not have children and found it difficult to identify with the experience some women had.

So to make a chance in your case you need to be identifying women who you think have been overlooked and championing their case for senior management, including yourself if need be. I agree with you though, it sounds in principle like it really is a missed opportunity.

BakedBeans47 Wed 18-Oct-17 10:15:59

Depends how old they are but I wouldn't employ a woman into a top role if she was likely to go off in maternity leave!!


Yazoop Wed 18-Oct-17 10:20:34

While I agree that in an ideal situation, there would be substantial female representation in senior roles, I think it is important to get to the bottom of the following:

- can you see why the changes were made, if you take gender out of the equation - i.e. in your view, are the role changes understandable based on performance factors (but still negative because of the change in female/male ratio)?
- if the answer to the above is yes, do you think the women "demoted" or moved out of senior roles could have performed as well or better than their replacements but haven't been given a chance due to their gender (e.g. Because they took maternity leave, have flexible hours, limited opportunities for women in the firm, etc)?

It can be really complex getting to the bottom of these situations, so it is worth looking at whether their is overt sexism in your boss' decision making or if there is a cultural bias that impacts these decisions that your boss might be unaware of - or perhaps it happens to be the best decision based on individual talents. Before going ahead with complaints, be sure of what you think is going on, so it doesn't impact you negatively. But good on you for tackling this.

Yazoop Wed 18-Oct-17 10:21:40

*There, not their!

Matilda1981 Wed 18-Oct-17 10:25:04

Yes, men can have parental leave but in my honest opinion children need their mums! Just my opinion, just saying that if I had the choice of two exceptional candidates for a job and one was male and one was female I wouldn't want to take the female on if she was likely to go off and have kids - waste of everyone's time and money!

Matilda1981 Wed 18-Oct-17 10:33:48

And although men can have parental leave they can't get pregnant and have any of the possible medical issues associated with being pregnant and giving birth!!

PericardiumOne Wed 18-Oct-17 10:36:15

Stop trolling, Matilda, and go back to 1981 indeed.

pigeondujour Wed 18-Oct-17 10:37:11

Then you'd probably face legal action before long and lose, @Matilda1981. Although I get the feeling this is very hypothetical for you.

SpaghettiAndMeatballs Wed 18-Oct-17 10:44:47

Matilda - men can have sports accidents, be hit by a bus, have a heart attack - do you discount all of those too?

And what does your opinion matter on whether a baby need's their mum? Surely the opinions that will matter will be the mother and father of said baby? Unless you plan to harass fathers so they don't take their parental leave? I mean, you're already admitting to acting illegally, so I suppose it's possible that's how you behave, maybe even probable. I'm sure that a hostile work environment accusation will be on your desk soon, or you'll end up with an office full of misogynistic males who'll agree with you, and drive your company into the ground with their bigoted attitudes.

VeryPunny Wed 18-Oct-17 10:45:24

The problem is that people are generally incapable of making unbiased evaluations of who is best for the role, and instead rate people who look like them (ie, usually white and male) higher than they should objectively. The disconnect between him mentoring women and generally thinking he's a Good Egg and between what he actually does is just showing you his unconcious bias - when he thinks about it rationally, he realises that women may need support, but his default is to regress to the unconcious male profile. The ROyal Society has some good materials on unconcious bias.

@matilda1981. My DH is a company director and took 6 months leave. Funnily enough the world, and the company, kept on turning. What was interesting is that he was lauded for being progressive, whereas my maternity leave was treated as an inconveinence.

Matilda1981 Wed 18-Oct-17 10:49:15

@pigeondujour - a very presumptuous comment there! As it happens I am in a very senior role within my company and I am very lucky that I can work around my children, I am very good at my job and I went back to work part time very soon after my first child but I then took a break after my second child and I know that recruiting for my replacement wasn't easy!!! Wouldn't have had these issues if I was male or didn't want children in the first place!

CherryChasingDotMuncher Wed 18-Oct-17 10:54:06

I think you need to leave your job Matilda, we need to weed out sexists in senior roles

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