This International Women’s Day is the first to see a third of boardroom seats filled by females in the FTSE 100, 250 and 350 firms. Women have made great strides in the workplace, with many now appointed to high-ranking positions – but there’s still a long way to go.

To shine a light on the situation, we look at the rise of women in senior operations roles, and how we can all accelerate this journey.

The story so far

Women are increasingly represented in operations roles. In fact, figures from the Hampton-Alexander Review reveal that the number of women on the boards of the top 350 UK companies has doubled in the last five years, and representation as a percentage has risen from 21.9% to over 34.3%.

We’ve also seen an astounding 315% increase in the number of companies with more than a third of women on their board, going from 53 to 220.

Kelly Becker, the President of Schneider Electric’s UK and Ireland operations, recently said that she would often be the only woman in the room just two decades ago. And although that’s sometimes still the case elsewhere today, it’s becoming less and less common.

What needs to change

While Kelly welcomed this boost in female representation across senior operations roles, she admitted that its journey still felt fragile and slow. To advance the process, change needs to happen – cultural change in particular. And this starts at the top.

Here are a few actions board members can take to help increase momentum:

Review culture

To change the future, you need to look at the past. The workplace is filled with processes that have always been there, but just don’t work in the modern world. Think about what transformations you can make so that women feel encouraged to join you in the boardroom.

Start with identifying any unspoken cultural biases or resistances. Pinpoint strengths and opportunities as well as weaknesses, which you can either leverage or devote resources to in order to create a more diverse workforce.

Boost transparency 

Lack of transparency around executive-level promotions and recruitment policies is unfortunately all too common. To combat this, you need to encourage a workplace culture and environment that actively promotes women’s journeys into the boardroom.

So, be clear about your strategy. If there is a promotion opportunity, chance to develop, or a vacancy for a senior operations role, be open about it – and the criteria or requirements for it. Otherwise, you might appear to be hiding routes to progression. And a secretive culture isn’t a healthy culture to be a part of.

Have accountability

While you’re not solely responsible for bringing about this change, you do need to work with all teams to ensure your employees buy into this culture.

As a board, you should show your enthusiasm for diversity and use your influence to encourage others to do the same. You’re the role models, after all. This means making sure there are no inconsistencies with the company’s direction or drive to increase the number of women in the boardroom.

Strengthen women

Getting into the boardroom isn’t the only issue. Once there, or when breaking through the glass ceiling to enter it, women generally lack the confidence and abilities to achieve the same goals as men.

Supporting and strengthening your current and potential female leaders is therefore crucial. Put them forward for development projects and assignments in operational roles so they have the opportunity to lead. In doing so, you encourage them to realise their ability and conquer any cultural biases.

Improving diversity this International Women’s Day

If you need help boosting the diversity and inclusion of your workplace, turn to Cast UK. All of our consultants have had meticulous training on this matter, so are well placed to support your next steps forward this International Women’s Day. Contact us on 0333 121 3345 or hello@castuk.com.