According to government-backed research, nearly 40% of UK FTSE 100 board positions are now held by women, which suggests that British businesses are gradually getting female employees in higher, more influential roles. While this is a promising statistic, it has also been found that 45.7% of these roles were in non-executive positions. So, it is fair to say that there is still significant work to do to plug the gender imbalance in leadership.

As well as hindering the career of individual women, the gender gap in leadership positions can limit a company’s potential, too. In fact, inclusive and diverse organisations are 50% more likely to make better decisions and 36% more likely to have higher efficiency levels.

With this in mind, as a business owner or HR director, what strategies can you put in place to plug the gender gap in senior executive roles?

Here, we will go through some valuable tips on how to start minimising the gender gap in higher roles.

Set up strengths- and skills-based development plans

One of the first steps you can take to tackle the gender imbalance in your senior board roles is to put professional, strengths-focused plans in place for emerging women employees.

Generally, women are more likely to undervalue or underestimate their potentialities than men, meaning that they might find it trickier to self-promote themselves and express their true worth.

So, in this respect, setting up development plans that aim at identifying and leveraging people’s capabilities is an effective way to recognise individuals’ strengths.

As well as offering a platform to enhance their competencies, these plans should also include consistent, 360-degree feedback. This will help you spot your employees’ strongest assets and determine any areas for growth as future leaders.

Skills- and strengths-based development plans, in turn, can also boost women’s confidence and trust in their abilities. And thanks to increased self-awareness, they might be more likely to stand out and push for the higher role they deserve.

Educate senior executives about the importance of leadership diversity   

As a business owner, you should consider sharing with your seniors the wide range of benefits that come with having a diverse board of leaders within the company.

For example, diverse leadership can help attract new talent from all backgrounds and walks of life, as candidates want to see themselves represented at the top level. This way, as an organisation, you have a better chance to find the best fit for the role.

What’s more, diversity in leadership is crucial to retaining valid employees who are currently facing challenges. In some instances, female higher-ups might be able to relate better to women in their team and identify more adequate ways to improve work satisfaction and minimise turnover.

So, educating your current executive leaders about the importance of (gender) diversity in leadership can benefit the company.

With a more diverse and inclusive range of individuals in executive positions, you can ensure your staff is as happy as can be, which will then help drive your organisation forward.

Review paternity leave policies

Where possible, think about reviewing your internal paternity leave policy.

As things stand, employees on paternity leave in the UK are entitled to two weeks off work, but this doesn’t prevent companies from offering the new parent a more generous policy.

As well as allowing the new dad to spend more precious time with their baby, this can benefit the mother in a number of ways, both personally and professionally. In fact, it can have a positive impact on the fair advancement of women’s careers, as longer paternity leaves allow both parents to flexibly share their childcare responsibilities.

More balance in childcare duties can help ease the pressure on women, meaning they can allocate more time and energy to focus on progressing in their role and climbing the company ladder.

Tackle gender bias in leadership recruitment

Another method to plug the gender gap in leadership and promote more higher-up opportunities for women is to actively tackle bias in the recruitment process.

To do so, provide your recruitment team with ample training on the existence and dangers of unconscious bias. This should cover anything from stereotypes to the importance of diversity in the workplace.

You may also want to consider standardising your job description. In what way? For instance, you could use gender-neutral language, focus on required skills and experience, and reduce references to gender-specific traits.

With a few tweaks in your recruitment process, you will be able to attract a wider pool of talented candidates and encourage more women to apply for leadership roles.

Address gender imbalance today

Addressing the gender imbalance in leadership is not just a matter of equity; it’s a strategic imperative for any forward-thinking organisation. To genuinely plug this gap, businesses must adopt a multi-faceted approach.

This includes nurturing women’s career development through strengths-based development plans, educating leaders about the value of diversity, reviewing paternal leave policies, and actively addressing recruitment biases.

Moreover, it involves creating an inclusive culture that values and leverages diverse perspectives, thereby enhancing decision-making and organisational efficiency.

The journey towards gender-balanced leadership requires consistent effort, a willingness to challenge the status quo, and a commitment to creating an environment where the unique strengths of all employees are recognised and nurtured.

Dominic Fitch, Head of Creative Change at Impact
Dominic Fitch
Head of Creative Change at Impact | + posts

Dominic Fitch is the Head of Creative Change at Impact. Impact is a leading experiential learning company, working to support global brands to prosper, by delivering customised people solutions.