The purpose of this article is to explore the reasons behind the extremely small proportion of women at the top of UK business. It argues that companies must change their approach if they are to address this problem successfully. The article also describes the innovative Impact Programme for talented and senior women run by the author since 2008.
The article is based on a combination of data, analysis and experience. It draws on a wide range of research evidence relating to female leaders and differences in how men and women behave. It describes and brings alive the benefits of the Impact Programme through examples of participant behaviour.
The article finds that current efforts to increase the number of senior women in businesses are mostly fragmented, cosmetic and ineffective. Invisible organisational barriers holding women back must be addressed. The differences between men and women should be fully understood so that more high-potential women are identified and promoted. It concludes that women themselves also need to make changes to how they lead and should be offered development programmes which help them increase their self-belief, assertiveness and impact without losing their emotional intelligence or authenticity.
This article brings a powerful new set of arguments to bear on an important issue. The Impact Programme described is a highly original and effective intervention. Business leaders and executives, both male and female, and members of the HR and L&D community will find it of significant conceptual and practical value.
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