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February 2012
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Generation F: Developing the Female Talent Pipeline for the Future

Organisations seeking to future-proof their talent pipelines are investing in developing and retaining their talented women. There is no doubt that we are moving into a new generation, where a ‘Generation F’ of female talent is being accorded greater attention and recording more successes. In the UK alone, young women outperform men in all subjects and achieve higher academic grades. Female enterprise contributes £130 billion annually to our economy. Companies with the highest level of gender diversity in top management posts outperform their sector in terms of return on equity, operating results and share price growth.


Regardless of these growing positive indicators, women remain under-represented at senior levels in many companies. In 2011, just 14 per cent of FTSE 100 directorships were held by women and 22 per cent of senior management positions.


Many people have tried to unravel the reasons behind these statistics. There are undoubtedly obvious distinctions between male and female career paths, but there are also more subtle reasons that impact female talent being nurtured, retained and promoted.


The first reason is organisational bias. For example, women are expected to demonstrate greater authenticity than their male colleagues, they are more likely to be placed into ‘risky’ management roles, and they are criticised if they adopt male behaviours. All of these factors seem indirectly to cause female talent to falter rather than flourish.


The second reason impacting female development is women’s views of themselves. Women in management roles consistently report having lower confidence about their careers. They are less likely to apply for jobs and promotions unless they believe they fully meet all the criteria. The same cannot typically be said of men in organisations.  


This combination of organisational bias and women’s perceptions of their capabilities all contribute to companies failing to fully harness the talent and potential of their female employees.


At Capp, we are committed to ensuring that we work with organisations, talent leads and emerging female leaders to overcome these barriers.


In our experience of working with female talent globally, strengths-based female leadership development helps women to develop their confidence and authenticity. Working with strengths also provides women with a language to define their own leadership brand. Interestingly, the women we work with also report how a strengths focus helps them “to do less, better”, as they stop trying to be good at everything and start focusing on their unique strengths, in service of their specific objectives and career ambitions. 


We are often asked whether companies should focus specifically on female talent development. The answer is yes. For us, this is not a question of positive action that counts out men, but more about understanding the differences that exist in the talent pipeline and what needs to be done to manage and overcome them.


Developing your emerging female talent is rapidly becoming an organisational imperative. Female leaders represent a startlingly under-developed population of talent and potential. As companies seek to change, this shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to media commentary, but rather a sustained strategy for talent and leadership development that ensures there is an abundant pipeline of future senior female leaders for generations to come.


With the emergence of Generation F, the future really is female. It’s time to develop women’s leadership capability and make the most of the potential that female talent everywhere has to offer.


What do you think are the key changes that would help companies make the most of female talent and potential? Share your thoughts in the Comment section below.


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2 Responses to Generation F: Developing the Female Talent Pipeline for the Future

  • Steve D says:

    I have a couple of thoughts and questions that I wish to contribute. The first;
    When ever I read about favouring one group against another, I am saddened. Do we want to encourage people to train and nurture a genda bias or do we want to encourage a real difference in thinking whereby people are trained and encouraged, STRENGTHS are valued over Genda and management teams are taught how to spot STRENGTHS in all people? I would say so.

    I agree that there is bias in our society of course. It may even be that it runs riot particularly in specific institutions. I have found a huge genda bias in the education sector and the legal sector and supporting one genda against another seems to me to create a backlash of further bias. For example, The teachers union in Australia promotes ‘women’s dinners’ women’s days’ and special women’s leadership mentoring. Men are under-represented in teaching in Australia and many feel undermined, poorly represented because they do not have the same social and professional days, mentoring and in some states, facilities. There is a burgeoning amount of research, Todd Kashdan recently spoke to the point, that men are not very good at forming community and when there is another offering that excludes a person based on something they cannot change, it is stifling.

    We will not create a new paradigm by taking a side, surely this is obvious. Everyone deserves opportunities let’s take the struggle away from genda and make the issue about what is best for a company, institution or organisation.

    Playworks Oz works to encourage community in the workplace based on STRENGTH and MINDSET towards planning and working. One of the great things about STRENGTH based work is that it can be used to look at a situation and invite strategies and strengths from anyone, it does not give fuel to the fire of bias.

    I realise that this is not a popular opinion in some circles but nurturing a bias for also nurtures a bias against and that is divisive. But, what do you think?

  • Alex Linley says:

    Steve D makes some very good points, and we wouldn’t ever recommend “favouring one group against another” on the basis of gender or any other immutable personal characteristic. The way I read Nicky’s post was slightly different, since I didn’t take from it that we should favour female development over male development, rather that we should recognise and seek to counteract some of the barriers that can exist to female development that aren’t always there for male development – and if the same applied vice versa, we’d be making the same argument.

    We don’t advocate the “quota” argument as a way of addressing the issue of putting more women into leadership positions, since this runs the massive risk of undermining genuine female achievement and raising the inherent question of whether successful women achieved their status through merit or through the quota requirements.

    In contrast, performance and capability are the things that matter, and this is where we focus our attention. Our Women in Leadership development programmes focus on helping women to develop their strengths and realise their leadership potential – just as we do when we’re working with men or indeed mixed gender groups on leadership development.

    As Steve D. rightly says, the real opportunity is for everyone to make the most of their strengths and develop their potential. Where we might differ is in our recommendations for how we do that, since practically it may be that different groups need different solutions to overcome the challenges and barriers they face. That isn’t discrimination, positive or negative, it’s simply a realistic engagement with what needs to be done to bring about the change we want to see.

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