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.