I recently hosted a webinar aimed at part and newly qualified accountants who are looking to capitalise on their sought-after status and map out their career paths now. I have no doubt that many in this pool of ambitious junior talent are hoping to one day reach positions of senior management.
CFOs, for example, typically have their background in accounting. However, MSCI data showed that by the end of last year only 8% of 2,470 big global companies had female CFOs – although this was up from 6.8% the year before.
It is clear from these statistics that there is a gross disconnect between women in finance, and women achieving top positions in finance. Those junior female professionals who attended our webinar may find they have some hurdles to overcome before they reach the pinnacle of their professional goals.
Building a pipeline of female leaders
The business benefits of diversity are frequently cited: enhanced innovation, improved attraction and retention, better financial performance and a more meritocratic culture. In light of these, many organisations are increasingly making visible commitments to diversity. One of the programmes of sustained action frequently implemented today is setting senior managers KPIs on nurturing gender balanced middle management, and, by proxy creating a more diverse pipeline of candidates for leadership positions.
So what 4 things can you do to immediately start getting the most from female finance professionals?
1) Practice inclusive leadership
In order to inspire, motivate and engage a diverse workforce, you need to value the benefits a diversity of employee skills, experiences and identities brings, whilst also creating ‘common ground’ to ensure your team is cohesive and working towards unified goals. Therefore, the first step is to practice inclusive leadership.
The four most common qualities of an inclusive leader identified by Catalyst’s ‘Inclusive Leadership: The View from Six Countries’ report are: empowerment, humility, courage and accountability. Regardless of their gender, all employees are more likely to advance under the auspices of effective, inclusive leadership.
2) Utilise mentoring programmes
Mentored employees advance faster, are more productive and are better able to navigate company culture. If your organisation doesn’t have a formal and reciprocal mentor programme, implement one. If it does, get involved by encouraging your team to take part and by acting as a mentor yourself. Studies show that women report a more difficult time finding a mentor than men, so such an initiative can ensure all junior employees feel the benefit of experienced ‘insider’ knowledge that empowers them to be grow professionally. It is also a good way to spot leadership-material talent which might otherwise have gone unnoticed, allowing them to find an internal sponsor. Mentors can also help ambitious mentees develop their commercial nous, which is vital for career progression – in fact, our DNA of a Finance Director report identified commercial awareness as the most important attribute for an FD to have.
3) Be open to flexible working practices
Flexible working – including working remotely and outside the traditional 9-5 day – can be the difference between a working parent continuing to grow or not. In some cases, most notably for mothers returning to work from maternity leave, it can be the difference between confidently continuing their career and abandoning it. Of course the key to flexible working’s success is managing your remote workforce effectively. However, if this is ensured, it can allow working parents stay involved, invested and on track for career progression.
4) Consider how to attract high quality female talent when recruiting
It goes without saying that one of the most effective ways to get the most from your female finance professionals is by hiring the most talented females. In order to do this you should ensure your organisation is attractive to top performers by having a positive cultural reputation in the industry, and by demonstrating real opportunities for development early in the hiring process.
Ultimately, both women and men in finance need to be in possession of the same key skills in order to achieve career success: commercial understanding, people management, strategic planning and communication are all key to being financial leaders, influencers and negotiators. However, you can ensure that all your employees are able to evolve and move forward by ensuring your workplace culture is consistently inclusive, supportive and flexible.
Share your views on diversity in the workplace by taking our Gender Diversity Survey.
To find out more, or to discuss your recruitment needs in this field, please contact your local consultant.