‘And the Winner of the Award for the most flexible, female-focused and forward thinking company goes to……….’

How would your organization fare if a ‘Business Oscars’ existed? Would you be a contender, on the short list or maybe you might even win? The Hollywood Oscars have been in the news recently with the usual dramatic and sometimes emotional accompanying acceptance speeches.

One of the most talked about, was the speech by Patricia Arquette who as best supporting actress winner used her acceptance speech to rally the call for equal pay for women. The speech was met by many with approval – the camera panned to show Meryl Streep’s delighted response and the response in the media was equally as favourable.

Although we may think that this is just Hollywood and a million miles away from what we do on a day to day basis in our own organizations, we should think again. The focus for any organization keen to grow and flourish is ensuring they capitalize on female talent and support, nurture and develop it as much as they can so that they don’t lose skilled employees. A particular area of concern borne out by recent government research is ensuring high potential women are retained especially at those key flash points such as starting a family.

Those flash points are often a dangerous time when highly skilled women are sifted out, sometimes being replaced with less desirable and less skilled candidates….the hidden Brain Drain! If we are really serious about helping women to push through the ‘glass ceiling’ and reach the government targets of getting UK FTSE 100 boards made up of 25% women by this year we should have government bodies lead by example. Women on Boards has called for a 40:40:20 target — at least 40% of the members on each public board to be women, 40% men and the rest either gender by 2020. However, although invariably businesses tend to pay more attention to gender issues in senior positions, there is often an assumption that people from the middle ranks will feed through. There is a real danger especially with women that this does not happen.

Business can introduce many practical initiatives to ensure the damaging brain drain by losing high potential women is halted. Initiatives such as: flexibility in working practices, working from home options, part time positions, support with providing high quality child-care options and inclusion even when taking maternity leave can all help.

One of the key ways women can be supported is through focussed personal development. Many of the issues faced by woman in an organization are unique to them. OnTrack’s Women OnTrack programme utilising the sensational Behaviour Intelligence tool is an excellent way to support women through their careers. It is a programme which takes place over a number of months and provides a powerful mix of group workshops, ‘on the job application’, networking and supportive coaching.