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Why women struggle in the business of turnarounds

New research undertaken by the Turnaround Management Association (TMA) has revealed that 96 percent of women working for organisations that specialise in turnarounds, company restructures and business transformations have never been appointed to a board position within the industry. Input from Jo Holland, Senior Vice President at McKinsey & Company.
gender pay gap

New research undertaken by the Turnaround Management Association (TMA) has revealed that 96 percent of women working for organisations that specialise in turnarounds, company restructures and business transformations have never been appointed to a board position within the industry. Input from Jo Holland, Senior Vice President at McKinsey & Company.

An overwhelming 68 percent said that they wanted to be considered for Board positions. They cited a dominant male culture (71 percent) and a bias towards male candidates (58 percent) as being key barriers to their progress within the industry and appointment to boards. Key findings revealed that: 68 percent of respondents said that they had found it difficult to embark on a career within the turnaround sector. Under 4 percent had proactively applied for a position on a board in the industry and these had all been successful in their applications. Only 7 percent had been offered a position on the board of an organisation outside the sector.

Long hours (36 percent), international travel (21 percent) and uncertainty of workload (29 percent) were also seen as barriers to progress in the industry. The need to be more thick-skinned (19 percent), show more self-confidence (46 percent) and be a tough negotiator (19 percent) were seen as hindering women’s chances of applying successfully for board positions. All those that had served on boards had a very positive experience  Says Jo Holland, a Senior Vice President at McKinsey & Company who leads the Network of Women at the TMA which was established in 2015 to promote career growth for women in the turnaround industry and help them break through the glass ceiling: “These findings show that there is real appetite amongst women in the sector to progress and be considered for board positions both within and outside the industry. However, they are clearly being held back by a gender imbalance which is limiting their opportunities.

“Our study shows that all women in our sample who have gone for board roles have been successful in their applications. Yet too many are clearly not applying despite the majority wanting to be considered for such positions.” The research also identified certain attributes that women could bring to the board including strong interpersonal skills (81 percent), management expertise (70 percent), positivity and optimism (67 percent), inclusivity (70 percent), a strong sense of purpose (52 percent), a values-led approach to business (70 percent) and knowledge of company transformations and restructures (48 percent). It also revealed what women saw as their key development needs to enable them to rise to the top, including development of business networks, negotiation skills and self-confidence.

Clare Grimes, a partner at Kendra Sinclair, an Executive Search Firm specialising in corporate restructuring, turnaround and transformation sectors, comments: “The research bears out our own experience. We have tracked senior hires across the industry for the last fifteen years and initially over 90 percent of hires were male and whilst this figure has improved it is still over 80 percent. The firms across the industry have tried to address the issues of diversity and whilst at more junior levels the male:female split is closer to 50:50, we have found that there is a significant shift in the ratio from Senior Manager level and above. The feedback we receive from women at this level is that spontaneity of travel and work life balance leads them to look for opportunities that have more consistent work flow. This issue needs to be addressed as the turnaround industry is undoubtedly losing fantastic talent.”

Grimes added: “Fifteen years ago there seemed to be an attitude that women were not tough enough for the turnaround industry. This attitude thankfully no longer prevails and this is testament to the huge success of women who have remained in the industry at a senior level, often outperforming their male counterparts.”

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