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Only one in 10 British women aspire to reach the top

Tuesday 8 March

European countries are lagging behind developing nations when it comes to female ambition in the workplace, with the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands falling furthest behind.

Only 11% of women in the UK believe they need to reach the most senior levels, MD or CEO, in order to feel successful in their careers, compared to 14% of men. This compares to 28% in Malaysia, 22% in Colombia and 18% in the UAE, according to a survey of over 11,500 people globally from recruiting experts, Hays.

In contrast, British women are much more satisfied in reaching mid/ senior-level roles. Almost four in 10 women in the UK (36%) say they would need to reach Director level to feel successful, compared to 33% of men.

The lack of female talent at the top is showing no signs of reversing. Women in senior management tend to be concentrated in support functions rather than leadership roles at the core of the organisation. Recent research has shown that globally only 9% of women are Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Operating Officers (COO). Chief Financial Officer (CFO) roles are slightly higher with 18% of these roles held by women, according to data from Grant Thornton 1.

Yvonne Smyth, Group Head of Diversity at Hays, said:
“It is concerning that only one in ten women in the UK aspire to reach the most senior roles within their company, despite their ambitions to reach manager and director roles.

It has been proven that more diverse organisations not only outperform those which are less diverse, but are also most likely to attract and retain the most talented professionals. Companies would stand to gain a competitive advantage if they encourage development from a wide talent pool, at a time when many industries are suffering with skill shortages.”

There needs to be better support from all sides around gender diversity in order to encourage women to reach the top. There is currently a severe imbalance between men and women in their views about pay and recognition for female workers. Just 14% of UK men compared to 44% of UK women believe that equally capable male and female colleagues are not paid or rewarded in an equal manner.

Companies also need to be more transparent about what is being done to support the advancement of women in the workplace, including formal gender diversity policies. The majority of respondents said their organisation either didn’t have a diversity policy (28%) or they weren’t sure if one existed (32%).

Smyth continued:
“Businesses need to ensure they are focusing on internal initiatives and policies in place to retain and promote their top female talent. By being aware of the different factors that motivate men and women and making career plans visible and accessible to all, employers can encourage and enable women to move into more senior positions.”

Currently, women currently constitute only 25 of the 267 executive directors in the FTSE 100 (9%), while in the FTSE 250, women are even less well represented, making up just 5% of executives 2.

To view the report visit:

PR contacts:
Eleanor Pead
T: +44 (0)20 7200 3760

Notes to Editors:

1Grant Thornton: Women in business: the path to leadership, 2015
2'Women on Boards’, Davies Review Annual Report, 2015

About Hays
Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Asia Pacific and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe and Latin America. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 30 June 2015 the Group employed 9,023 staff operating from 240 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2015:
– the Group reported net fees of £764.2 million and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £164.1 million;
– the Group placed around 63,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 200,000 people into temporary assignments;
– 23% of Group net fees were generated in Asia Pacific, 41% in Continental Europe & RoW (CERoW) and 36% in the United Kingdom & Ireland;
– the temporary placement business represented 58% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 42% of net fees;
– Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA