Gender imbalance on boards and leadership teams is slowly improving but clearly still has a massive way to go (check out this summary of last week’s Davies report to see what I’m talking about if you missed it).

Why is it taking so long, and what can we do to accelerate things? These questions got me thinking about the role collaborative and enterprise social technology can play.

Last week I caught up with my friend Dr Alexandra Beauregard who has recently been appointed Associate Professor of Human Resource Management at Middlesex University Business School. Alexandra was talking about the 70:20:10 model of learning and development and subsequently shared this fascinating but somewhat depressing Catalyst research which backs it up (I’ve put a summary at the end of this post of the Catalyst findings, kindly provided by Dr Beauregard).

The 70:20:10 problem in a nutshell

Many women (most?) are getting shunted into leadership development programs (which evidence shows only provide 10% of what you need to get the top jobs). At the same time they not getting near the ‘hot’ projects required for the all important ‘on the job’ development experience (the 70%), whilst finding it hard to build the critical relationships (the 20%) as a result.

All this at a time when organisations are supposedly fighting the ‘war for talent’ and wondering how to tap into rich talent pools (such as women!). Seems to me HR teams should be trying to do something about the 90%.

How can collaborative social technology initiatives help solve this?

Enterprise collaboration programs can play a major role in levelling the playing field. With well implemented technology these programs make it easier for everyone in the connected organisation to tap into the colleague network and build critical relationships across offices, hierarchies, projects, in fact the whole organisation. So called ‘working out loud’ behaviours allow experiences and learnings to be shared, opening project doors more widely, and increasing visibility of high potentials (men and women) with the board and the rest of the business.

ABeauregard-220“We need to be better at opening up opportunities more fairly across the organisation, and sharing experiences and learning as we go. People all too easily assume that everyone else knows the unspoken rules of the game. We need to be more transparent about how processes like development and advancement actually happen in organisations.”

Dr Alexandra Beauregard, Associate Professor of Human Resource Management, Middlesex University Business School, London

The platforms that enable all this are also the perfect place to advertise opportunities more fairly, and allow for accurate mapping of skills to project requirements by building an active internal searchable database of skills and expertise.

The ultimate HR ‘use case’ for your collaboration initiative?

So for HR teams, and collaboration leads looking for killer use cases for your new comms and collaboration platform, let’s maybe look beyond the generic ones and start to take on some important, challenging outcomes like gender imbalance? And maybe together we can help the UK to do better than 33% female board members in FTSE 350 companies by 2020. That’s got to be an easy target to bust…

Author: Nick Crawford


Appendix: Summary of the Catalyst research info (thanks Alexandra) in case you’re not convinced more needs to be done

Catalyst did a study of 1,660 high potential employees. They found that high potentials got ahead further and faster when they worked on highly visible projects, held mission-critical roles, and took international assignments. They also found that men got more of these game-changing experiences than women did. The projects men reported working on had budgets that were more than twice that of women’s projects, and they had more than three times as many employees staffed to them. About one third of the men in their study reported getting C-suite visibility to a very great extent while working on projects, compared to only one quarter of women. And men felt their projects involved a higher level of risk to their companies than the women did. Men also had greater access to mission-critical roles than women. More men than women held positions involving:

  • Profit and loss responsibility (56% of men, 46% of women)
  • Management of direct reports (77% of men, 70% of women)
  • Budget responsibility of greater than $10 million (30% of men, 22% of women).

They study found that women entered leadership development programs earlier in their careers than men, and remained in them longer. After these development programs, men were more likely than women to:

  • Get an international assignment (23% of men, 14% of women)
  • Receive profit and loss responsibility (13% of men, 7% of women)
  • Have their budget oversight increased by 20% or more (22% of men, 15% of women)
  • Receive a promotion within a year (51% of men, 37% of women).

There was one outcome that women were more likely than men to receive — being assigned a mentor (47% of women, 39% of men). This supports past findings that in some cases, women feel “over-mentored”; they receive lots of development without any subsequent advancement opportunities. Those findings also showed that having more mentors didn’t lead to advancement; having senior mentors who are in a position to provide sponsorship did.

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