Women and the City Research Report

The city is the home to some of the brightest talent in the UK. It is also the place which has seen employers go to extraordinary efforts to ensure that within that talent pool, women are equally represented and nurtured through their early careers.  Despite all of this investment, the number of women progressing to senior positions in the city remains stubbornly low. ECC’s Women in the City research report captures views of young professional women and their career aspirations and what would stop them from pursuing their careers in the City.

Women and the City- How employers can attract and retain female talent for the future

Our research, which draws on insights from over 650 women working in the City (aged 21-35 years old), suggests that City firms are unlikely to meet their goals of greater gender balance at senior manager or partner level because women cannot see how they can meet expectations of their employer while balancing family life.

The majority of City women would consider taking shared parental leave when they have children and are keen to balance career and family but believe the culture in their current firm makes pursuing a career as a mother unrealistic

In summary the research found that:

  • 62% of city workers would be interested in shared parental leave but the financial impact on the family and the potential impact on the father’s career progress would stop them from going down this route.
  • 86% of young women think being a mother is a hindrance to their career. However, just 5% believe this is the case for fathers in the workplace.
  • 46% of young women think that returning to work after children will result in fewer opportunities being offered to them.
  • 62% of young women think colleagues will be worried about the impact on them if they have a child.
  • 60% of young women think colleagues will assume they are less serious about their career if they have a young child.
  • 26% of young women say they think if they remain in their organisation it will take up too much of their life or they can’t see how it could work if they have children.

We wanted to undertake this research to really understand the issues in the progression, motivations and aspirations of Generation Y women in the City.  We have noticed that the women we coach during the maternity transition often have semi-left their organisations before they are pregnant.  We wanted to investigate when and why do young women start to feel that a long term career is not possible in the City. To do this we felt it was important to look at the other end of the talent pipeline at younger women and see the problem through their eyes.

Just 25% of the young women surveyed said that all or many senior women in their organisation are good role models, compared with 58% who said many or all of the male leaders are positive role models. This is despite the fact female leaders are seen to have the same top two characteristics of drive and confidence as men.

It would appear from our research that young women have different expectations of their female role models. The need to demonstrate a balanced life came out as the top attribute for female role models.

The findings also show that when it comes to career and being an active parent, managers in organisations continue to either ask the impossible or simply sideline them, failing to give the opportunity to focus and do well in one area, which might keep their career on track.

This is hard to do in an ‘up or out culture’ where expectations to be good at everything are high. There’s an urgent need for more relatable role models to inspire future talent. Showcasing superwomen puts them off.

Organisations need to start embracing the different style of leadership women can bring. Our research shows female leaders are seen as more inspiring, collaborative, empathetic, nurturing and motivated than their male counterparts – it’s this inclusive, open, inspiring and compassionate style of leadership that women in the City admire and want to see. These qualities have the potential to create a leadership style that better meets the needs of our workforce today and create the diversity needed at the top. It is vital that companies recognise these traits and don’t only promote women who “outman the men”

Geraldine Gallacher is the Managing Director of the Executive Coaching Consultancy and can be reached on geraldine@executive-coaching.co.uk.  

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