I know! I know! This looks like a controversial presentation topic and comes across harsh. But, it literally is the question I was hired to find an answer to, exactly the way the Senior Leadership Team posed it to me.
And the moment they asked I knew I wanted to help them discover the answer. The client in question here is in technology consultancy. Just over 95% of their workforce is male. But none of the women who do work there do consultancy work. All work in what they call “Support Services” – Reception, HR, Marketing, L&D and Finance. There is only one female Department Head and there are currently no women on the Senior Leadership Team.
To be fair, their area of specialism is a traditionally male-dominated field. But their key competitors do a much better job of recruitment and retention of womxn than they do, even at a graduate level. Last year, they had 2 women in their intake of 20 graduates, neither of whom are still members of the team. By comparison their closest competitor managed to attract 8 women in their intake of 24 graduates, 6 of whom are still members of the team.
I could continue on with the statistics, but I think you get the point. There’s clearly a problem. And I’ve spent the last 8 weeks finding answers rooted in reality and based on evidence. To their credit, they gave me carte blanche and full access. I started with the current team, to review processes and uncover their thoughts and opinions. I also reached out to past female team members across all levels of the organisation. They were incredibly open and I was blown away by how many of them made the time to chat to me and how invested they were in helping the organisation change. I spoke to women who applied to the graduate scheme but ultimately accepted other offers. I spent time on Glassdoor reading reviews and looking for themes. I even had the chance to go into the universities they typically recruit from and ask students in the area of study about their preferred post-graduate career options. And then – just in time for International Womens Day I had a chance to present my findings, using a mix of statistics and where possible, womxn’s own words.
At the moment due to privacy and confidentiality issues I am not allowed to share the findings, but am assured I will be able to later in the year. Nevertheless, I have a really great feeling that they are going to be successful in making changes and solving this problem over time. Why?
- The impetus for change is coming from the top and all of the Senior Leadership Team is committed to making change. But in the same breath, everyone else I met across the rest of the team also really wanted answers and seemed open to change.
- They didn’t fall into the trap of self-review. Sometimes when existing team members are appointed to review internal processes, systems and ways of working, they can find it difficult to be impartial and truly critical and as a result the root(s) of the key issues remain uncovered.
- I didn’t need to sugarcoat or consultant-speak. They invited, and in fact, encouraged me to be as clear and honest as possible.
- They didn’t get defensive when I shared my findings. They embraced them and there was open discussion in the room as I shared.
- They are bringing the entire organisation on the journey. After I shared the main presentation with them, they set up sessions for the rest of organisation to hear the key findings and learnings alongside their planned actions, and then invited the team to share their feedback and ideas.
- They have already started to make changes. Too often, I see clients getting the findings and then **crickets**. They take so long to get moving that the impetus around the change is lost alongside motivation and momentum.
I look forward to updating you on their progress and journey.