26 October 2023

Why fixing the broken rung is employers' next big challenge

Written By Carolyn McVey

Why fixing the broken rung is employers' next big challenge

With many areas of financial services still male-dominated, it’s important for employers to consider what more can be done to attract and retain women employees. In a recent interview with Laura Skaanild, Senior Vice President in the Global Professional & Financial Risks team at Lockton, she highlights the need to continue to drive initiatives that support the development and progression of women in business.

In our latest article below, we highlight some of these initiatives in more detail. 

Equal representation remains illusive

Recent years have brought progress when it comes to the representation of women in the workplace, but there’s no hiding the fact that much work remains to be done.

According to McKinsey & Company’s 2023 ‘Women in the Workplace’ reporton the state of women in corporate America, the majority of women continue to find themselves excluded from crucial leadership positions. Despite women occupying 48% of entry level roles across, only 1 in 4 C-suite leaders is a woman.

This discrepancy is due in part to what’s known as a ‘broken rung’ at the very first stage of the career ladder. For every 100 men who are promoted from entry level to manager, just 87 women are promoted, with those from minority backgrounds the most heavily affected. Once opened, this gap is impossible for women to close.

Strong headwinds affecting women

Various factors contribute to this broken rung. The McKinsey study notes that women are often hired and promoted based on past accomplishments, while men are hired and promoted based on their future potential. Described as ‘performance bias’, this can especially disadvantage women at their first promotion to manager.

Once in the workplace, women also face stronger headwinds then men which can further prevent them from rising through the ranks. For example, women are more likely to have their judgement questioned, or be subject to concerns that parental responsibilities might interfere with their ability to perform a role. They are also more likely than men to see others credited for their ideas. These experiences undermine women’s’ authority, and may actively discourage them from pursuing advancement. 

These themes have been brought into greater focus in recent years, due both to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the entry of new generations into the workplace. Significantly, 32% of women say that they feel set up to succeed when working remotely, compared to just 10% in 2021. This is because they face fewer microaggressions – such as unpleasant interactions with co-workers – and higher levels of psychological safety. For employers, this underlines the importance of a flexible work offering.

Gender equality has much to offer

Engaging women in the workplace is both a challenge and opportunity for employers. Women leaders are not only critical for equality, but can also bring new perspective and approaches to a business, including better monitoring and oversight abilities, and a willingness to invest in innovation. Invariably, this translates into improved performance.

In achieving this goal, it’s vital that employers take a holistic approach. Strategies to promote the role of women in the workplace may encompass a range of initiatives, such as flexible working guidelines, professional development and training, or women-focused recruitment strategies. Seeking out employee feedback, and tracking outcomes can also help employers to track and assess progress.

At Lockton Global People Solutions, we are conscious of what is a lingering gender imbalance within the insurance industry, and have sought to address this through the work of the Women in Lockton (WIL) Global People Solutions Committee. Focused on the promotion of gender equality and gender-specific development, the Committee has devised four key objectives:

  • Professional & Personal Development Opportunities – To provide a forum to develop and retain our first-class female talent, regardless of job or seniority through personal and professional development
  • Regional Mentoring Scheme – To provide a mentoring scheme for our female Associates to assist them with their overall development and career strategy
  • Networking & Business Development Opportunities – To provide internal and external networking and business development opportunities for our Associates and prospects and client base
  • Commitment, Communication & Engagement – To become a leading figure in the market for our commitment to developing our female talent through engagement and communication

The strategy reflects the role of women in Lockton Global People Solutions today, and our ambitions to become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive employer. Similarly, other employers should ensure their strategies are targeted towards their specific goals and tailored initiatives capable of driving real change within their workplace.

Such initiatives may include:

  • Demonstrating commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and emphasising this across internal communications
  • Giving employees the opportunity for hybrid and remote working arrangements where possible
  • Training hiring managers to avoid unconscious biases experienced by female employees and ensuring equal opportunity
  • Ensuring promotions and rewards are determined based on measurable results to provide opportunity for advancement
  • Tailoring pension schemes and other financial wellbeing packages to cater to women’s needs, including longer life expectancies
  • Promoting shared parental responsibility through schemes such as paid paternity leave

Lockton's dedicated People Solutions team works with organisations to build total rewards and benefits aligned with your business strategy – helping you to attract and retain the very best talent

For further information, please visit our Lockton People Solutions.

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