This article first appeared in Investment Week, 14th August, 2018
We are a services industry. We may manufacture products to sell, but the assembly line and factory floor are all metaphorical.
As a result, our industry is wholly reliant on human capital and we spend a lot of time and money nurturing and developing this talent, whether it is in the front, middle or back office.
But what does not make any sense to me is why so many businesses are willing to forego this investment without even flinching.
I am referring to the erosion of mid-career women from the pipeline. Rather infuriatingly, maternity leave is often cited as a main contributor to this, but that is just nonsense.
The reasons for these losses vary widely: some women are pushed because of inherent biases in a flawed system, while some just jump because maybe they cannot fit the round peg of life in the square hole of a profession that has not evolved its working practices along with the times.
There are conscious and unconscious biases at play, so systems need to be put in place to educate, challenge and, where necessary, reprimand.
However, instead of trying to understand and remedy why we are losing this valuable, diverse talent, companies would rather spend more time recruiting to replace the individuals they have already invested in, but failed to retain.
Returner programmes are being launched to recruit back talent lost from an already qualified and experienced pool of professionals. But if we have not fixed the issues that made us lose those people in the first place, what is the point?
We need a rethink to ensure we have a flood, not a drip, of diverse talent being retained. For example, if the pressures of juggling work and family life is why someone left, look at offering more flexibility.
Perhaps positions with school holidays off? This may seem unrealistic, but just think about the 12 weeks throughout the year when state schools are off; I am pretty sure half the City is on holiday then as well.
The bottom line is there is little use in attracting many more women to our industry if they all leave once they hit a certain position, age or life event.
If we can first pique the interest of a greater number of women and attract them to the industry, then the systems, support and professional development must be in place to keep them.
This is how we will feed the pipeline and get more women into senior positions and, dare I say, the C-Suite.
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