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Talent spotting: are there enough women in senior positions in our industry?

19th May 2014|POSTED BY: Admin

It started at the last AGM. We had just appointed six new Council members. A question was asked from the floor: Why are there so few women on the ARMA Council?

Like an iceberg, this topic is the visible tip of a much wider, submerged issue. In order to stand for Council, candidates must be a director or in a senior management position. Ideally, they will also be the ARMA corporate representative for their firm.

If we take corporate reps as an indication of eligibility for council membership, we find that of our 323 members only 62 have females in that role.

At the time of writing, 187 corporate representatives are directors or managing directors but of those, only 12 are female. So the pool in which we are fishing for female Council members is over 90% male.

Two out of twelve Council members are now female; arguably on the low side of acceptable, and even more so as a fair reflection of the senior structure of the industry - never mind of the make-up of the wider workforce. But if we want to improve that ratio, there has to be a bigger pool of female candidates to choose from. And that means more women in senior positions.

Many have commented that there are more women at our annual conference than ever before – a good indicator of more women coming into the industry. But are they going on to occupy senior positions? Anecdotal evidence suggests not, and that those who do tend to be in HR or finance positions rather than actual block management.

This is not about special pleading for women. There’s a sound economic case for nurturing female talent and keeping trained and experienced women in businesses. Research has found that mixed male/female teams are more productive than single sex teams of either gender. High quality staff are at a premium. It can’t make sense to throw half of them away.

This is not an issue that’s confined to property management. Concern has been expressed for many years about the wasted resource when women drop out of the employment market, or stay in but fail to reach their potential.

The Government has challenged FTSE 100 companies to reach a target of 25% of female representation on boards by 2015. In 2011, when the challenge was first issued, the figure was just 12.5%.

Progress is being made. The latest report shows there are only two FTSE 100 companies that still have an all male board and 36 have met the 25% target. But there’s still plenty of work to be done. If the Government is going to meet its target, 50 women need to be appointed to FTSE 100 boards in the next 18 months.

Although the Government is partly driven by European legislation, it’s keen to point out that improving gender diversity is not just a social “nice to have”. It’s actually about boosting economic growth by making the best use of human capital, whether male or female.

Just to be clear, we’re talking about positive action here - not positive discrimination against men. It should always be the best person for the job, but women need to have the same opportunities to compete as their male colleagues.

Other European countries are taking a regulatory approach, but the UK government has said that it wants to avoid regulation in favour of voluntary action (where have you heard that before?). But regulation could be the future if progress isn’t made.

Whatever the size of your company, the message remains the same. It’s to your advantage to spot talent early – male or female – and nurture it.

Managers may need to try a bit harder to spot women with high potential. Women tend to “get their head down, do a really good job and hope that it gets recognised.” It’s time to make sure their achievements DO get recognised!

What do you think? Drop us a line at