Glass ceiling for female managers still exists, says report

But setting quotas for board members is 'not necessarily the answer'

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of female managers believe that there is still a glass ceiling, according to new research from the Institute of Leadership & Management (IL&M).

In comparison, just 38 percent of men believe this to be true, according to the IL&M's report, 'Ambition and Gender at Work'. The institute surveyed around 3,000 managers.

Moreover, thirty-six percent of women felt that their gender has hindered their career progression, a feeling that grows stronger with age. Nearly half (44 percent) of women over 45 felt there were still barriers for women aiming for senior management and board-level appointments.

This is an issue that the government hopes to address with the launch of former trade minister Lord Davies' report on Thursday, which is expected to set a timeframe for UK companies to increase the number of women on their boards.

According to Cranfield University's School of Management, only 12 percent of FTSE 100 directors are women, falling further to 7.8 percent in the FTSE 250. Meanwhile, a recent report from sector skills body e-skills UK found that women make up just 18 percent of the professional workforce in the IT and telecoms industry.

Statutory quotas for women on boards have been ruled out by Davies, but the report is expected to ask companies in the FTSE 350 to increase the proportion of women on their boards on average to 20 percent within two years, up to 25 percent by 2015. If progress is not made, Davies will warn that quotas could return to the agenda. .

The decision on quotas appears to be widely supported.

"The majority of women that we talk to don't want to see the introduction of quotas - they want to get the top jobs on their own merit and ability, not to make up numbers," said Maggie Berry, managing director of womenintechnology.co.uk.

"Good female talent can be difficult to find, especially at senior level, so it's also important that employers mentor and support future female leaders in their organisations.

"More equal parental leave is also needed if we want women to realistically be able to reach board level positions. Quotas aren't the ideal solution, but must be considered if we don't see improvements."

Penny de Valk, chief executive of the IL&M, added: "Quotas may be seen as the quickest solution and some countries, notably Norway, have introduced them with some success. However, although they drive compliance, they do not necessarily drive a commitment to the more fundamental changes that are required.

"Business leaders must take responsibility for building an effective talent pipeline, and make it a commercial priority to proactively identify, develop and promote potential leaders of both sexes."

Meanwhile, in response to the German government's threat to impose a quota, Angelika Dammann, executive board member at Germany-based company SAP told the Financial Times: "We are in favour of actively promoting women instead of a strict quota."

The IL&M also found that a lack of confidence and career ambition among women can impede their career progress.

Only half of the female managers surveyed described themselves as 'high' levels of confidence, compared to 70 percent of men. In addition, just half of women expected to reach managerial level when their started their careers, compared to almost two-thirds of men.

Despite this, women were more likely than men to have entrepreneurial ambitions. A quarter of women under 30 aimed to start their own business within 10 years.

"Employers need to find ways to nurture women's ambition. This means developing transparent talent management systems and introducing [flexible] leadership career models and development approaches. Coaching and mentoring, in particular, have an invaluable role to play here," said de Valk.

Tags careersIT managementAmbition

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Anh Nguyen

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