By Martin Stead

Not long ago, I was watching an episode of the BBC’s brilliant police corruption drama ‘Line of Duty’ and one small scene got me thinking. Without going into detail, one senior female officer suggested to a senior male officer that he promoted females solely for his reputation and that he is otherwise sexist!

Then today I was reading online about a survey undertaken by CV-Library which the Independent quoted as finding that two out of three males would be comfortable asking for a pay rise compared to two in five females.

Is there still such an unconscious bias in the workplace that means we are as far as ever from reaching gender equality? Why is gender even a factor in promotion and remuneration decisions? Would a man really be viewed with suspicion if he promoted females ahead of males?

Despite the rafts of shared parental leave legislation to make it easier for men, I suspect it is still in the majority of females who take time out or leave the workforce completely when they have children. So is this part of the reason or just a convenient excuse?

There is now substantial evidence that gender diversity at management level enhances a company’s performance. The Peterson Institute for International Economics completed a survey of almost 22,00 companies from 91 countries and found that having women at senior management level increased net margin by a massive 15% when compared to otherwise similar companies with no female leaders.

It doesn’t necessarily follow that women are better at running a business but isn’t it simply obvious and common sense that a wide-ranging set of influences at the decision-making level helps. Diversity not just across gender but across cultures, backgrounds all bringing their opinions and influences to the decision making process.

As a leader, I have always sought to surround myself with people who can support me, cover my skill gaps, and with whom I can work closely to get a better outcome than what I could otherwise achieve on my own. I know that these people are either already or will become better than I am but I am comfortable enough to in my position to help them achieve that.

I believe that in a lot of ways a leader should always be looking to replace themselves and maybe therein lies the issue. Perhaps too many leaders are insecure in their role and therefore suppress people with better or different skill sets rather than embracing them. Maybe it is not overtly a gender issue at the core but one of protectionism and therefore the situation will perpetuate without some overt action.

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