women as leaders cranfield university

Alison Cutland, executive development partner at the Praxis Centre for Leadership, explains why women as leaders are benefiting business

On the face of it, things are looking positive for the number of women as leaders on boards in the UK. This year we have seen the number of women on FTSE 100 boards increase to 26%. This is good for the UK Economy – a detailed McKinsey report has estimated that if the market participation of women and men were equalised, then the annual GDP could be increased by at least 10% in 2025.

It’s not all good news though. The Cranfield University School of Management report led by Professor Susan Vinnicombe, CBE, “The Female FTSE Board Report 2016, Women on Boards: Taking stock of where we are”, identifies that there is much more to be done to ensure that women progress through the executive pipeline.

The report gives an insight into women’s representation at the executive committee level in the FTSE 100, showing that women hold only 19.4% of executive committee roles. So more needs to be done at pipeline level to ensure women will progress to top senior roles and reach a new target of 33% of women on boards by 2020.

Creating gender-inclusive workplaces

Recent research by Professor Elisabeth Kelan, Director of the Global Centre for Gender and Leadership at Cranfield School of Management has focussed on the pipeline and the positive effect male middle managers can have. Her report “Linchpin – men, middle managers and gender-inclusive leadership”, showed which practices people in middle management positions can adopt to create greater gender-inclusive workplaces.

Men represent 70% of managers and leaders in organisations and have a major role to play to ensure that gender parity becomes a reality in organisations. There are still many “gender blind” practices in organisations which disadvantage women.

Cranfield School of Management’s Professor Kim Turnbull James is one of the Directors of the women as leaders open programme, which sits within the Praxis Centre for Leadership Development programme portfolio. Many arguments for a lack of women at the top do not stack up. We hear things such as:

  • They’re not in the pipeline – this may have been true in the past, but not now. By their 30s and 40s, there are many women in the pipeline who are just not reaching the next level.
  • They jump out of corporate roles for family reasons. Research shows they go instead to other organisations more conducive to women.

There are a growing number of forward-thinking businesses that have been addressing women’s leadership for some years. Indeed many of the in-house programmes Cranfield runs with client organisations focus as much on organisational change and talent management to ensure that talented women do not get stuck in their careers, as they do on developing the women leaders themselves.

The women as leaders open programme at Cranfield offers senior women an opportunity to develop an understanding of how they might develop their career and time to reflect on and clarify their approach to leadership, in a world which still offers few executive-level role models.


Alison Cutland

Executive Development Partner at the Praxis Centre for Leadership

Cranfield’s Women as Leaders Programme

Cranfield Management Development Centre

Tel: 01234 754502


Please note: this is a commercial profile


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