Male corporate culture remains biggest barrier to breaking glass ceiling

by Stephanie Zillman29 Apr 2013

Retention of senior female executives is a major battleground for HR, and new research has revealed that the glass ceiling remains intact, and male-dominated corporate culture is the biggest barrier for women reaching board level.

A new report from executive search firm Harvey Nash and board network Inspire has found that of the 600 directors, CEOs and senior executives surveyed, a quarter of respondents claimed dominant male culture remains the single biggest barrier to career progression.

The cost is high for organisations, some 50% said they believe today's cultures are dramatically reducing the length of time women are prepared to stay and develop their career with their employer. Female respondents cited an improved culture (52%), flexible working (36%) and the removal of unconscious bias in the workplace (23%) as the most effective way to persuade them to stay longer with an employer. Men agreed with the top two, but cited better investment in technology, such as video conferencing or laptops for remote working, as their third choice (30%).

“Organisations are failing to recognise that in today's world, employees of all genders want different ways of working,” Carol Rosati co-founder of Inspire and director of Harvey Nash, said. “Often the bias that creates this male-dominated culture is unintentional and unconscious. Without realising it, senior managers often celebrate presenteeism and reward those employees who they have the most immediate access to,” she added.

A so-called ‘more enlightened approach’ to managing all employees would help re-balance the gender in the talent pipeline, and also create a more productive workforce and improve retention. “These initiatives need not be expensive, but the onus is on businesses to change the way they operate to achieve these gains,” Rosati added.


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