Barriers to the Boardroom for Business Women

We have been working with senior women in SME’s and multinational corporations over the last 15 years, supporting their career advancement. But there are still a lot of barriers to the boardroom for business women. Along the way, we have identified several key barriers to advancement. So what are the barriers to the boardroom for business women? These include lack of flexibility in working conditions to accommodate family obligations, having to outperform men to achieve the same status and, without fail, mention of the old boy’s network.

The old boy’s network is more than talking about sports and hiring cronies. It is about attitudes to women and their place in the workforce. That the old boy’s network is alive and well is evidenced by a glance at the local papers.

The Times, for example on June 11th, 2015 had 3 stories alone demonstrating sexist attitudes in the workplace. One story is the follow up to June 10th’s front page story reporting on a Nobel Laureate who advocated for single-sex laboratories for female scientists because, among other things, they cried when criticised. He resigned but one has to wonder how that attitude had influenced the hiring, workplace atmosphere and career path of senior women scientists.

A story on page 6 reports that Nicola Sturgeon is fiercely defending Alex Salmond’s remark to a female in the House of Commons. He barked at Anna Soubry admonishing her to “behave yourself woman”. While admitting that it was not language that was deemed appropriate, it was uttered in a heated debate thereby making it ok. So, Ms Sturgeon, are sexist attitudes acceptable in certain contexts? Her adamant defence brings Shakespeare to mind. “Me thinks thou dost protest too much.”

The third story, and I haven’t even finished reading past page 11, involves the soprano Lisa Milne, who announced that she is given up the opera stage after 20 years. Among the reasons cited for leaving was the fact that she finally felt defeated by the pressure to fit an image of how she looked. Despite having gastric by-pass surgery and a breast reduction she was told she wasn’t pretty enough, tall enough, slim enough… Yet her talent was never in question.

Many businesses have shown a genuine commitment to supporting women reaching the upper echelons of their field. I can’t help wonder, however, if we shouldn’t be developing a course for men. Women have the capability and talent to succeed and they are working hard to get there. It would seem that unless we change the attitude of the old boy’s network, real change will not happen.

At RTC, we extol the irrefutable business case that workplaces and board rooms are greatly enhanced by the presence of motivated, focused and influential women.

Through a series of monthly sessions or a shorter programme of master classes, Our Women As Leaderscourse empowers women within the corporate environment to build their own personal brand through increased confidence, develop their ability to identify big picture opportunities, seek advancement by taking on more responsibilities and ultimately gain earned promotion.