One in five women believe reaching senior management ‘impossible’

Research by O2 and CIPD reveals worrying trend ahead of deadline for Lord Davies women on boards target.

Nearly one in five women (17%) believe that it is impossible for women to reach senior management positions, according to research by O2 and the CIPD.

The survey of 2,000 women asked them about their experiences at work. In response to another question 45% said they believe there are not enough women in senior management positions at their organisation.

Additionally almost half (48%) of those asked believe all key decision-makers in their company are male.

Despite the pessimism among female professionals many still harbour ambitions to work at the top of their business. More than one-quarter (28%) say they dream of being CEO one day – while 35% ultimately want to be on a company’s board of directors.

But this is juxtaposed in the report with women’s own personal experiences at work. Around one-third (32%) say their career to date has failed to meet their expectations. Poor line management (33%), negative office politics (28%) and a lack of development opportunities (22%) are cited as the main negative aspects of work.

Subsequently 36% of women say that they lack the confidence to ask for a promotion.

>See also: Feminising modern management

O2 HR director Ann Pickering said the figures made “uncomfortable reading” for employers.

“We want all our people – male and female – to feel supported and encouraged throughout their career, and it’s crucial that we remove any stumbling blocks preventing them from fulfilling their ambition and potential,” she added.

“Our research shows that, while the diversity debate has moved on outside of the office, not enough women are actually seeing this progress at work.”

The research is released at the start of 2015, the year by which Lord Davies demanded 25% female representation on FTSE100 company boards in his 2011 report. No official month has been set as the ultimate goal but many see May’s general election as the unofficial end date. Currently the figure stands at 22.8%

CIPD public policy adviser for diversity Dianah Worman warned that although there has been “genuine progress” on the women on boards agenda, too much focus has been on non-executive appointments.

“We’re calling on all parties in the forthcoming election to commit to a new voluntary target for at least 20% of executive director positions in FTSE 100 firms to be filled by women by 2020,” she said.

“This will encourage organisations to set a clear example of diverse leadership, and grant employees the benefits of management diversity from those actively involved in the business. Development programmes such as that run by O2, are one way of achieving this target.”

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