A new survey of women in the workforce by Skillsoft has found women around the world are concerned that their employers are not doing enough to close the gender gap in leadership. In the report, nearly all (90 per cent) of the 450 women who participated cited that a disproportionate number of leadership roles are currently being held by male employees. More than half of the respondents (54 per cent), highlighted the importance of offering leadership training specific to women, but nearly 70 per cent of the female participants believed that their employers do not currently provide adequate resources and support to help them progress their careers.
The respondents’ perceptions provide an accurate representation of the current global state of women in corporate leadership. In the United States alone, women hold more than half of all professional-level jobs, yet comprise only 5 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs. In most European countries, women comprise less than 20 per cent of all corporate boards and women represent just 6 per cent of corporate boards in Asia.
“The lack of women in leadership positions speaks volumes of the failure of businesses around the world to address gender discrimination and establish a mixed gender leadership pipeline as a top priority,” said Priti Shah, vice president of leadership product strategy and corporate development at Skillsoft.
In order to implement more effective leadership development, organisations must first acknowledge the key factors inhibiting women’s career progression. Skillsoft’s study demonstrates that work-life balance is the top concern for 63 per cent of women. Competing priorities often limit the opportunities women have to develop into leaders within their organisation, according to a recent Eudemonia study It’s About Time: Developing Women for Business Leadership.
“Companies must cultivate the ongoing culture of respect for people’s time, recognise the deeply-ingrained challenges women face and start to realistically enable their advancement,” said Christa Degnan Manning, founder at Eudemonia, a research and advisory firm focused on workforce support. “There are a myriad factors that go into creating company cultures supportive of productivity and advancing women. Only when we begin implementing formal development programmes that routinely review key leadership concepts can we then engage peers, mentors and sponsors across company networks to finally increase the number of women in executive and board positions worldwide.”
Recently, Skillsoft announced the Women in Action™ leadership programme, the industry's first learning solution specifically designed to help women across the workforce build specific competencies and immediately apply newly-acquired skills. The new programme enables Skillsoft customers to deliver ongoing learning opportunities for women at all levels of their organisation, whether they are emerging leaders or hold positions in senior-level management.
“It is important for industry leaders like Skillsoft to equip our customers with tools that can help all members of the workforce reach their potential,” Shah said. “Though we’re starting to see more event-based development opportunities for women, a continuous approach to developing leadership competencies is also crucial for organisations to build gender parity in leadership positions.”