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The Balancing Act

A study by Harvey Nash / Inspire of how to balance the talent pipeline in business, 2013

The start of 2013 has been marked by a number of high profile calls for companies to be more transparent in their reporting on the number of women on boards and in business. None will be more important than those from the Financial Reporting Council, the UK's independent regulator responsible for promoting high quality corporate governance and reporting, requiring companies to disclose the number of female and diversity executives they employ. Two years on from the publication of Lord Davies' report Women on Boards, diversity reporting and, more specifically, gender reporting, is now under intense scrutiny - and rightly so. 

At the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), spoke about 'inclusive growth'. Visionary companies, she said, need to make investing in women a pillar of their business and talent management strategy. This is not about 'PR' or 'doing the right thing', she pointed out, it simply delivers quantifiable returns. 

Looking East, the war for executive talent has never been as fierce as it is today, and it will only intensify with growing demands from China and other growing Asian economies for Western-trained talent. Ignoring half of our talent pool - women - will compromise the growth prospects in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. 

Reflecting on the recent US Presidential elections, a record number of women - 141 - ran for election last year, and women voters were a key focus for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Women are drivers of economic growth throughout the corporate world and government. Greater awareness of this needs to be fostered to provide a mechanism of sustainability for women and diversity in organisation talent structures. 

However, the shortage of women in the boardroom reflects a deeper problem, and that is the significant number of women who leave big companies at middle and senior management level. What are their motivations for opting out of corporate life? And where are they going? Despite some improvement at non-executive director level, female executive directors are still in short supply, and the reason is the 'leaking talent pipeline'. As it stands today the talent pool is not sustainable or strong enough to develop female talent and promote them up the corporate ladder. This continues to be a major challenge facing businesses around the world, which are struggling with big talent gaps and succession planning among their middle and senior executives. 

The 2013 Inspire board report, The Balancing Act, provides clues as to why women opt out of corporate life, and what employers need to do to keep them engaged and the workforce balanced. Download "The Balancing Act" here