How to Support Women in Management in the UK

By Andrew Willis
08 Mar 2022

Supporting women in leadership could make your company a very desirable workplace. With the Great Resignation affecting UK businesses, improving retention and boosting company reputation could make a real difference.

This International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2022, we will look at what UK data tells us about women in leadership. The deadline for companies to report on the gender pay gap data is also approaching. When putting these two aspects together, we see more work remains to be done to encourage women in business in the UK.

Our experienced advisors can help you manage any HR related queries you might have. Whether you are concerned about the gender pay gap, or how you can better support your staff, call our HR advisors today on 01455 858 132.

But why do employers need to make more of an effort to empower women in leadership roles?
Data from the employment market paints a picture where women still occupy a far smaller percentage in higher management roles than men do.

What do women in management statistics show in the UK?

In 2021, only eight of the top 100 UK companies had female CEOs, according to the FTSE 100 report. This figure still stands as the highest in the history of the FTSE board report, so there has been clear progress. However, questions remain about what causes this lack of women in higher management positions across the whole country.

Research from October 2021 showed that 79% of women didn’t feel supported to develop their leadership skills. They felt their respective companies didn’t give them enough time and resources to further develop these skills. Only two thirds of the men that participated in the survey felt the same.

The survey also highlighted that 55% of the male respondents considered that the responsibility to grow their leadership skills stays with them. In this respect, only 46% of female respondents agreed.

This survey sampled 1,000 senior level professionals across the UK.

Women In Management UK

The FTSE report and the October 2021 survey emphasise that:

  • Fewer women than men progress to senior management level in the business environment
  • Women feel lack of support plays a role in their career progress
  • Skill shortages play a role in the imbalance between female and male leadership on the employment market

What affects career progression for women in business in the UK

By looking at the above, we see indicators that women still struggle to develop leadership skills across industries. Several factors contribute towards this, and we will discuss the most relevant ones next.

Further growth and leadership research highlighted how, in 2021, COVID impacted on women’s employment trends.

Firstly, women lost their jobs via redundancies at a highly increased rate compared to the 2007 financial crisis. While men also experienced high level of redundancies, the increase in their case stayed far lower compared to the same 2007 peak. On top of this, women faced higher risks of being furloughed than men, according to the Trades Union Congress.

Secondly, and linked to the first point, a higher number of women work in sectors hard hit by the pandemic. This contributes to less job security for them compared to men.

And thirdly, women health aspects also impact on their career progress. A 2019 survey highlighted that three in five women were negatively affected at work by their menopause symptoms. This triggered a 2021 parliament inquiry on how to tackle menopause discrimination in the workplace. Coincidentally, women’s careers also tend to peak around the menopausal age of 45 to 55.

The above inquiry also investigated if menopause should become one of the protected characteristics according to the Equality Act 2010.

When we consider all these elements, we get a better understanding of how companies can improve leadership for women in business.  

What can you do to support women into leadership

When thinking where to start best, consider barriers to women progressing to senior management level within the business.

Let’s think of the childcare duties that still tend to fall on women in many couples. Flexible starting and finishing times offered to both women and men can contribute to a fairer distribution of childcare responsibilities. It gives both parents a chance to take turns in starting earlier or later, so they do the school run.

Gender stereotypes still influence expectations in the wider society and hold women back. According to another October 2021 UK survey, girls aged 11-18 said they are being taught they are “bossy” if assertive. They also learn that girls are not good at sports or DIY, but more suited to housework. These girls looked up at role models who broke such gender stereotypes, from tennis player Emma Raducanu to education campaigner Malala Yousafzai.

Employers like you can also address and challenge such harmful stereotypes in the workplace. Do you still see bias within the company towards women in leadership? Cases such as the Activision Blizzard walkout highlight that big companies can still harbour gender inequality, and worse.

To empower your women employees, start by asking them what support they need. Use an anonymous pulse survey for this, as they might feel more comfortable to open up this way.  Offer leadership coaching aimed at boosting their confidence and assertiveness and discuss female leadership at all levels within the business.

A Croner success story

Our Director of Service, Rachael Knappier, has been with Croner for three years. In February 2022, she discussed the proposed date to end COVID restrictions, as a guest on BBC Radio 4.

We asked Rachael about her career progress within the company, and what helped her get where she is today. She said:

Rachael Knappier

“Leadership is challenging but rewarding. Dedication and continuous self-improvement are key skills to possess. 

My journey to leadership started 10 years ago when I worked at a law firm. It was here that I began to learn the skills of management. Fast forward 10 years and I am now the Director of Service for Croner having started in the business as a manager just 3 years go.

The key to my progression was Croner. I was given the opportunity to learn from and work with the best. I have been given the scope to shape the service that we deliver to our clients, so we are consistently striving for excellence.”

We hope her story can inspire other women in business, as well as other companies to support them into senior management roles.

Find the right HR solution for you

Often, the start proves the most difficult part when aiming to change or improve systems. It’s the same in employee management, particularly when looking to empower under-represented genders or minorities.

We can help you find a way to improve your systems as to encourage more women into leadership. Call us today for HR advice on 01455 858 132.



About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in employment law, HR and commercial legal advice for small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.





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