Those of you who were fortunate enough to attend our Client Forum at the start of the month will have been treated to a fascinating piece of research from our Insight and Engagement Director, Simon Andrew.

Simon took a look at the reasons people decide to take on a new role, and what we can learn from this when it comes to bringing talent into our organisations. There were a number of interesting findings, but for me, perhaps none more than the gender divide when it comes to what individuals want from their job roles.

Some key differentiators

There were some inevitable commonalities. Pay and benefits and a job role that you love were deemed to be important by survey participants of both genders. There were also, however, some key differentiators – which I think are really relevant when it comes to the lack of female representation when it comes to the most senior levels of our organisations.

Mandatory gender pay reporting has only just begun, but already what we are seeing is a clear trend. The issue is not, generally speaking, with employees carrying out the same role being paid the same salary. No, the bigger challenge we are facing becomes apparent when you start to probe into the data behind the four pay quartiles. In the vast majority of organisations, women are simply not progressing up to Q3 and Q4 within the business – or certainly not in the same proportions as their male counterparts.

So what’s the solution?

The problem I believe we are experiencing is that senior level roles have historically been designed by men, for men. They naturally play to encouraging characteristics which are, in the main, more commonly exhibited by males rather than females. In the most senior positions, you will likely work long hours, with little or no flexibility about the hours you work. You will often be required to travel extensively. The style which has come to be expected in these roles is one which is directive and decisive. You will experience more conflict and less collaboration.

In short, a vast majority of the things which came through loud and clear in our research as being more important to females than males – flexibility, a convenient work location, the opportunity to work in collaboration with people – are either missing or in short supply when we reach the echelons of the Board room. Why? Because we are existing in a legacy from a time when women simply didn’t progress. We know these days that we want to solve the problem of the gender gap at work – but we’re trying to do it without really tackling the root cause. To truly see equal representation at a senior level, we need to fundamentally redesign what those C suite roles look like.

Improved business performance

And, by doing so, I genuinely believe we will see improved business performance as a result. We know the benefits diversity brings to our business. By striving to design more diverse leadership teams, we are opening up the pool of experience and skills we have around our Board room table. We are bringing in attributes which may only previously have existed at lower levels within our organisation – attributes which can add significant value in a Board room capacity. And we are, finally, given all of our female employees a genuine opportunity to progress, to roles which are truly designed to play to their strengths.