Female Estate Agent Working At DeskThe recent “Cracking the Code” report updates the debate on the role of gender in management career progression.1

It is essential reading for all cool leaders! It’s focus is to define gender intelligent contexts that get the best out of men and women. It aims to avoid ‘fixing women’ to adapt to male-dominated structures and ‘beating men up’ for – consciously or unconsciously – maintaining an uneven playing field.

The analysis is based on mostly UK data taken from 19 major organisations and a survey of 4608 respondents at seven different levels from graduate trainee to ExCo/Board member from 100 organisations across 11 sectors.2 The report builds on previous research into why the talent pipeline leaks more women than men and how women can ‘lean in’ to their careers.

The outcomes are structured by prevailing myths, the research findings and the implications for individuals and their organisations. Long discussed by Susan Vinnicombe, who heads the International Centre for Women in Leadership, Cranfield School of Management, these myths are now expanded to ten.

Myth 1 – Women don’t aspire to senior leadership roles
Myth 2 – Women don’t stick it out to make it to the very top
Myth 3 – Childrearing stops women getting to the top
Myth 4 – Women don’t get to the top because they lack confidence
Myth 5 – Women lack the leadership qualities needed at the top
Myth 6 – Women don’t have the networks that open doors to the top
Myth 7 – Senior women leaders pull up the career ladder behind them
Myth 8 – High potential programmes are fast-tracking women
Myth 9 – Formal flexible working arrangements ease women’s route to the top
Myth 10 – The business case for gender diversity is working

The report recognises that “there are more similarities than differences between men and women at work. Yet the marginal differences appear to predict markedly dissimilar career outcomes for men and for women”. It recommends that “organisations provide more targeted support for women with respect to the following:

  • long range career navigation
  • building a strategic portfolio of experience
  • conveying Board-readiness”

It concludes that “excuses that rely on any of the myths dispelled in this research will no longer work. It is time for a concerted effort by women and men to address the shocking statistic that a man is 4.5 times more likely to make it into an ExCo role than a woman starting out at the same time”.

“Enlightened organisations are dismantling structural barriers, addressing bias and providing professional development opportunities to help more women progress. At senior levels, women are alive to this support, committed to career progression and loyal to the organisation, but they still miss out on promotion”.

You can access the full “Cracking the Code” report here.

Jacquie Drake

Jacquie Drake

Dr Jacquie Drake is Founder of cool-leadership.com and Editor of the cool-leadership newsletter.




1 ‘Cracking the code’ is the 30% Club’s strapline for really understanding what works for women in business and whether this differs from what works for men.
2 two-thirds women; one-third men.

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