Gender Imbalance: How Should We Encourage More Women into More Senior Positions in Businesses?

Susan Cully, columnist and Managing Director at Marlin Apartments discusses gender imbalance at senior management level in the workplace as we enter 2016..

The annual Association of Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP) Conference is the leading forces that propel the serviced apartment sector forward. It’s the time when we come together once a year to discuss current industry developments and forecasted trends. And every year – including this year – I look around and can’t help but notice that the majority of my peers are male.

With increasing debate in the public eye concerning the gender gap – from the public sector all the way to Hollywood – the subject remains ever relevant – especially in the world of business. A recent study conducted by Mercer revealed that the representation of women falls dramatically as seniority rises, with just 21% of executives in the average European company being female.

This is contrasted with support staff level where the split of women and men is almost equal (51% women to 49% men). Such gender imbalance also carries over to management level, with only 32% of managers and 24% of senior managers being female.

Where does this imbalance stem from? And why in this day and age, as we’ve entered 2016, does this gender inequality still exist in the workplace?

Historically, traditional gender roles and stereotypes meant that women took the back-seat when it came to their careers. Men were the breadwinners, providing for the family ever since the dawn of time – and women were the subservient home-makers. And juggling a career whilst raising kids? Don’t even think about it.

But now times have definitely changed – and if you were to ask the average person on the streets whether they view women and men to be equal, the answer would be a resounding “yes”. “Of course”. “Why wouldn’t they be?”

“Why wouldn’t they be?” is indeed the question, when only one in five company executives in Europe are female. As a managing director, I realise that I fall into this minority – and Marlin as a whole actually does have more females in senior positions, with 71% of managers being women.

While the statistics for Marlin shun the general trend seen throughout Europe, we are one company and this is by no means purposeful: many of our key players happen to be women. But the same cannot be said when we take into account hundreds of businesses – and the gender imbalance remains overwhelming.

So should anything be actively done to try and encourage the appointment of women into more senior, executive positions in businesses? Yes and no.

I would welcome more women in business because it is long overdue to ensure equal representation at all company levels. But at the same time, I could never endorse an environment where women edged out worthy male candidates from executive positions purely on the basis of being female. Positive discrimination in business is simply part of the problem guising as a solution.

In my opinion, where possible businesses should make more of an effort to cultivate an environment where women are able to have as many opportunities as men.

For example, one particular obstacle for some women is stepping back into their career – and perhaps even having to start at the bottom again – after having a child. If businesses could be more flexible with working hours and even have a hand in assisting with childcare arrangements, I feel that women would have a fairer chance of progressing to executive level.

Whilst it is certainly important to keep the gender gap issue alive today, we must seek ways for women to be able to thrive in the workplace without positively discriminating against them. Otherwise, we simply leave ourselves open for scrutiny.

About Susan Cully: Susan Cully is Managing Director of Marlin Apartments, London’s leading serviced apartment provider. Alongside Marlin Apartments’ CEO, Susan established the company throughout the official launch in London 2003. Susan has played a pivotal and consistent role, growing the company to six sites and now with over 700 apartments and a staff of more than 100, while also successfully earning an MBA at Imperial College London.
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