The ascendancy of women in leadership roles: #inspireinclusion

Roisin Loughran
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International Women’s Day serves as an important reminder to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide and support gender equality.

The 2024 International Women’s Day theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’ underscores the significance of recognising and embracing the diverse experiences, talents, and perspectives of women. There is a collaborative call to action to promote equality, dismantle stereotypes, challenge biases, and champion the inclusion of women.

Grant Thornton’s Women in Business Report 2023 highlighted that the proportion of women in senior management roles around the globe increased to 32.4%. In addition, boardrooms that were formerly predominately male-orientated are now witnessing a more equitable distribution of gender.

The FTSE Women Leaders Review 2024 Report found that women hold 42.1% of FTSE 350 board places and 72% of FTSE 100 companies have four or more women on their boards.

Whilst there has been a shift in the business landscape, and progress should be celebrated, women continue to face barriers when seeking leadership roles. It is crucial for business leaders and organisations to play their part in clearing these obstructions. Best practice suggests a number of key actions organisations might consider, including:

Creating a culture of inclusion

Organisations should craft a compelling vision for inclusion and bring that vision to life by aligning actions to visible and vocal leadership. It is important that businesses describe the expectations they have for behaviour, bring diversity to the leadership table, ensure women’s voices are heard and challenge bias and microaggressions. Meanwhile, enhancing policies and flexible working for all will enable all parents and carers to balance work and caring responsibilities.

Critically assessing your recruitment, development, and promotion processes

Ask the question: does your organisation’s recruitment, development and promotion processes offer equal opportunities to elevate and retain women, including those in the early stages of their career? It is important that business leaders challenge the assumptions that exist about women’s aspirations at work.

Proactively addressing your organisation gender pay gap

Gender pay gaps within organisations must be proactively and rigorously assessed, with a plan developed to redress any imbalances that may exist. A vital element of this process is for organisations to ensure that their pay and reward policies are transparent, fair, and equitable.   

Increasing the number of mentors, sponsors and allies

Mentors can be an important conduit for sharing knowledge, experience, and advice, while offering guidance and inspiration to colleagues. Sponsors can actively advocate for support, and enable women to succeed, while allies can lend their voice and break down barriers.

Building a community

Organisations must look to establish communities to promote professional growth and facilitate strong working relationships for women. Networking events and conferences focused on women in business should be considered as these provide platforms for collaboration, knowledge sharing and exchange of ideas.

International Women’s Day is a powerful reminder of the progress made. It is an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the contribution of the women who have gone before us, the shoulders we stand on, the global and local leaders who have paved the way, our mothers, our sisters, and our friends.

However, beyond a single day of celebration, it is our duty to all future generations of daughters, nieces and granddaughters, to continue empowering women to forge a better world, where women’s voices guide progress, lead in business and help others understand and value inclusion.

Let us keep inspiring a world where there are no gender constraints. #InpsireInclusion.