A new report, commissioned by Vodafone UK entitled Driving Gender Diversity at the Top: 2019 and Beyond has looked at the FTSE 350 companies to identify common policies, behaviours and schemes that have proven successful in achieving greater levels of gender balance across senior teams. Following a survey of 2,000 senior decision makers from FTSE 350 companies, carried out with YouGov, the report identified three key drivers to obtaining greater gender equality at the top of organisations. It found:

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1. Mentoring and role models create a culture of support

Those companies whose senior leadership teams are made up of at least 30% women were found to be more likely to foster ambition, with 27% of senior leaders actively mentoring others, and 17% looking for opportunities to ‘sponsor’ more junior employees within their organisation. In companies that have very few women in senior leadership positions it was found that only 14% of staff are mentors for others. The report concluded that by offering mentoring and coaching opportunities employees are much more likely to develop and look toward joining the board.

2. Making the C-suite visible

Those organisations with greater gender equality at the top were found to have high levels of interaction between the C-suite and the rest of the organisation. The C-suite rarely saw the rest of their staff in those organisations with a poor record of gender balance at the top.

It is thought that having a physical presence within the workplace and ensuring a level of interaction between senior staff and the wider team helps to making senior leadership roles appear more accessible. This also gives more opportunities for knowledge sharing across the organisation. At companies with higher rates of women in leadership roles, 28% said that they learn from those on the board, and vice versa. At businesses with lower gender diversity at the top, only 16% think those working at a senior level learn from others.

“We really encourage employees to interact directly with the board," said Helen Lamprell, General Counsel and External Affairs Director at Vodafone UK. "That means you can get some quite interesting questions coming through, but that's really important, because listening and learning from your employees is what enables us to stay close to our customers and to grow and to work well together.”

3. A positive attitude to flexible working

The research found that companies who positively embrace flexible working are more successful in achieving the target of having 33% of females in senior leadership roles by 2020, set by the government backed Hampton-Alexander Review. To achieve this, companies must actively avoid ‘flexism,’ where those who work flexibly are discriminated against. Nearly half, 49%, of employees working at companies with more than 30% women in senior roles say that flexible working feels normal because the senior team are advocates themselves.

The full report can be read here

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