On International Women's Day our industry can show Britain how women can reach the top, says Sharon Glancy, founder of Women 1st
This Thursday, on International Women's Day, many people will criticise businesses for the lack of women in most boardrooms. It is just over a year ago that Lord Davies released his review Women on Boards and the Prime Minster has raised the possibility of setting quotas to force companies to appoint women into boardrooms. But given the economic turbulence is it right to set quotas and force companies to promote female staff based on a legality?
Positive discrimination will help to increase the number of females in a workplace and tackle the problem of recruitment via the ‘old boys' network. It is, however, a superficial solution and does not help to develop the skills of women in the long-term. Companies need the best set of skills from the most talented candidates - both male and female .
Lessons can be learnt from the UK's vibrant hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism industry which is responsible for one in 10 jobs. This industry has been tackling this challenge head-on. Whilst the majority of the workforce (nearly 60%) is female, only 6% of board level director positions are held by women - half the national average.
There are a number of barriers that prevent women's advancement to senior roles including the difficulty of combining work at a senior level with childcare, preconceptions and gender-bias within recruitment processes and a lack of visible women in senior positions.
Developing women's leadership and networking skills in particular has a significant and positive impact. From our experience at Women 1st of helping over 700 women, once these issues were addressed, career progression often followed. In fact, the feedback we have received from employers is that developing the skills of female staff made commercial sense as women make the majority of consumer spending decisions.
A gender balanced board leads to balanced decision-making and provides a better understanding of markets in which many of the customers are female.
So, this International Women's Day, rather than criticise let's be positive and commend those enlightened businesses in the hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism industry that have taken steps to help female staff achieve their career aspirations.