HR Information

CEOs ‘should talk from the heart to promote gender equality’

CEOs should talk from their heart as well as their head in order to promote more equal roles between men and women, according to a new study.

Research conducted by KPMG and King's College London shows that merely outlining the business case for diversity is not sufficient to increase the number of women at senior levels. A more effective case can be made if CEOs talk from their heart as well as their head.

The study, carried out by Dr Elisabeth Kelan from the Department of Management at King’s, analysed how CEOs make the case for diversity within their organisations and the kind of leadership behaviours adopted in order to make change happen.

A number of factors are cited by CEOs as reasons for the lack of women at senior levels within organisations. Although "management failure" – shortcomings in systems, processes and people necessary to achieve equality – was the main reason, CEOs also believe women seek roles which enable them to achieve a greater balance between work and caring responsibilities.

Such attitudes risk stereotyping women's roles, as this sort of work-life balance is sought after by some women but not by all of them.

According to the findings of the research, CEOs often downplay the personal reasons for wanting more women in the workplace. In fact, they need to be more vocal about such reasons, as they often have strong women in their lives or other personal reasons for believing gender diversity at the top of organisations is a positive goal.

Dr Kelan said: "The current generation of CEOs has an opportunity to chart new territory in making progress on this issue and they need to understand the power of doing things with words. Through aligning their words and actions as much as their hearts with their heads, they can set their organisations on a trajectory that disrupts current practices and allows for sustainable change on gender parity."

Simon Collins, UK chairman of KPMG, said the research showed the conventional ways of addressing the problem of gender inequality are inadequate and discussing the issue of gender diversity in personal terms is the best way to make progress.