How can we nurture women into leadership?

07/03/2019 | by Proximity

How can we nurture women into leadership?

In celebration of International Women’s day, we’ve seen social media buzz with empowerment messages and interesting events to attend. We live in an age where we are encouraged to make our voices heard at management or board level, or be part of a girlboss movement creating our own businesses and fortunes. As we look deeper we begin to realise that often the levels of encouragement outweigh the reality of women achieving an equal work status.

It becomes increasingly clear that we need to create businesses and opportunities that nurture women and remove the obstacles they face but women also need to Lean In and develop greater confidence and self-belief and an understanding that they can follow their dreams and it is not always about climbing the ladder. It is about being able to pursue dreams, interests and learning and having supportive organisations that provide flexible working and hours around childcare regardless of gender and if you dream is to be a CEO then go for it!

How are women doing at CEO level in the UK?

Almost 29% of FTSE 100 board positions are held by women, up from 12.5% in 2011.

If progress matches the same gains made over the last three years then a third of board positions will be filled by women by 2020 – the target set by the Government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review.

Under new laws, over 1,400 companies have reported their gender pay gaps revealing an overall pay gap of 18.4%. All companies with more than 250 employees must report their gender pay gaps by April 4 (30 March for the public sector).

Tackling the gender pay gap is part of the Industrial Strategy Government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future, with the ambition to help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs and ensure everyone can be successful in the workplace. Bridging the gender pay gap could add £150 billion to the UK economy by 2025.

At Proximity Insight we have a female CEO and our gender pay gap is currently set at 8.1% with a 3.9 % median gender pay gap. We are working to continue to improve this and we fully embrace the need for an inclusive work environment and the benefits of a diverse workforce and we offer flexible working and the ability to work remotely to all our employees.

How is the USA shaping up for women in leadership?

So it seems like the UK is progressing towards equality, not quite 50/50 but on the way. How are our US counterparts shaping up?

As of May 2018, there are 24 female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list—or just under 5% of the total list. The women run a diverse range of companies—from consumer goods behemoths like PepsiCo to defense contractors like Lockheed Martin—but they are, predominantly, white. At the moment, just two names on the list are women of colour: Geisha Williams of PG&E Corporation (PCG, +1.98%) and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo (PEP, -0.18%). None are African American.

With only 5% of female CEO’s making the Fortune list, the USA certainly needs some affirmative action to create change.

How are businesses with gender-diverse executive teams performing?

Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability and 27% more likely to have superior value creation.

Companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform their national industry median on EBIT margin and 27% on EP margin. According to McKinsey’s Delivering through Diversity report.

What can we do to support women in leadership?

Performance is a clear indicator that it makes business sense to have gender diverse teams, so how can we support women into leadership roles?

  1. Create flexible working because once you become a mother, it’s likely you’ll become the primary caregiver, unless you earn more than your partner, so you will need flexible working hours and practices.
  2. Be supported by a system (Government) that supports childcare costs and returning to work before the child is age three (the age they get 15hrs free childcare)
  3. Create careers that offer progression, including if the role is full-time, flexible hours, working from home, school time holidays etc.
  4. Increase the visibility of female role models who have achieved what they wanted to and in a similar position to you, i.e. with children and as the primary caregiver
  5. Changing the narrative that mothers who ‘leave’ their children to return to work are ‘bad mothers’

What does a great example of flexible working look like?

Providing childcare has helped companies like Patagonia see a great return in the form of retaining workers and increasing gender diversity.

“To support our families, Patagonia provides company-paid health care and sick time for all employees; paid maternity and paternity leave; access to on-site childcare for employees at our headquarters in Ventura, California, and at our Reno, Nevada, distribution center; and financial support to those who need it, among other benefits. In particular, offering on-site child care, we believe, is the right thing to do for employees, working parents, and the life of the workplace. At Patagonia, women make up 50% of our workforce, including roughly half of upper management positions.” Rose Marcario, CEO Patagonia as told to Fast Company. (Rose Marcario joined Patagonia in 2008 as CFO, and has steered Patagonia’s profits to triple).

Another positive story shared on gives us hope, and shows us how with simple actions we can change not only the life of one woman and her family but for many.

More than 35 years ago, a programmer at SAS had a hard time managing both her career and her new baby. Rather than risk losing this employee, the company hired a nanny—and has offered childcare on-site ever since.

If you think about it, happy parents are likely to stay with an employer that values them and their family. If childcare can be provided then surely that would help with staff retention.

What’s it like to be a woman in tech?

According to Tech London Advocates, Women In Tech:

14% of the tech workforce is female

9% of venture capital goes to women-led companies

34% higher ROI for women-led tech companies

This shows very low stats for women working in tech, or who receive VC funding, however, the women who are working in tech get 35% higher ROI. So, if women drive higher ROI for tech firms surely it makes business sense to have more women in tech leadership?

Proximity Insight clearly feel that it makes sense to have women in leadership roles. A company created by two male co-founders, who had the foresight that they needed a strong leader to take the business to the next level, hired a female CEO, Cathy McCabe, with incredible retail and tech experience. Since I have been working with Proximity Insight, I experienced first-hand how we all pull together, men and women to achieve what needs to be done. We have a common business goal, clear values and we care about each other.

Not only does Proximity Insight have a female CEO, we also have a 50/50 split across men and women in the team. Working across all roles including Head of Sales and Head of Marketing, women within Proximity Insight are creating a business that delivers for our partners. Proving the 35% higher ROI stat to be true!

The reason we have been able to grow in this way is because of the leadership team placing importance on collaborating to getting the job done, but also supporting us as individuals. A company that believes in nurturing talent, aspirations and our lives outside of work too.

As a mum of a three-year-old girl and a one-year-old boy, I started working with Proximity Insight when my son was 9 months old. This has only been possible because Cathy understands what it takes to bring up children whilst rising in her career. Proximity Insight’s co-founders, Kris Moyse and Matt Lacey also have young children. Flexibility is key to our work lives and respecting time with family. Not only for childcare reasons but also because we work across three different time zones, UK, AUS and USA. Perhaps the timezone adds to the understanding that time, country or other commitments create no barriers we still deliver, and in a way that inspires both internally and externally.

Here’s hoping there are more companies with values like Proximity Insight in the future. And let’s take it upon ourselves to inspire and nurture everyone around us, women, men, girls and boys.

Written by Proximity

More From Proximity