Male dominated corporate cultures are the biggest barrier to women reaching the board, according to research undertaken by by the Inspire board network and executive search firm Harvey Nash.
In a survey of over 600 directors, CEOs and senior executives a quarter (23%) identified this as the single biggest barrier to progression, and half (52%) said today's corporate cultures are dramatically reducing the length of time women are prepared to stay and develop their career with their employer.
The research, The Balancing Act: a study of how to balance the talent pipeline in business suggested improvements in corporate culture would deliver gains across the whole workforce, with 60% senior executives saying their productivity would be increased if their organisations played a more active role in helping them balance their work and non-work lives. Over half (58%) said their productivity would rise by 10% or 25% if work fitted better with life outside the office.
While male and female executives all cited improvements in culture and flexible working as their top two requirements for making the workplace better, women respondents cited the removal of unconscious bias in the workplace (23%) as the most effective way to persuade them to stay longer. In contrast, men cited better investment in technology, such as video conferencing or laptops for remote working, as their third choice (30%).
The report also reveals that there appears to be little appetite for change among organisations. Over half of respondents felt it would take at least ten years before women make up one-third of private sector boards, while 16% thought it would take more than 15 years.
The survey found that just a third (34%) of boards accurately reflect the social make-up of their organisation's customer base, with 60% of respondents feeling they do not. Around two-thirds (60%) felt the single most important reason to ensure women reach senior and executive levels is because diverse executive committees are stronger.
Just one in nine felt their organisation was successful at retaining, developing and promoting women up the corporate ladder. Despite this, the majority (67%) opposed the introduction of gender quotas, favouring targets instead.
Carol Rosati co-founder of Inspire and director of Harvey Nash said: 'Organisations are failing to recognise that in today's world, employees of all genders want different ways of working. A more enlightened approach to managing all employees will help re-balance the gender in the talent pipeline, but also create a more productive workforce and improve retention. These initiatives need not be expensive, but the onus is on businesses to change the way they operate to achieve these gains.'