I can't help but flinch when I read this list.
I suppose I'm having difficulty understanding this list for several reasons:
Firstly, that it is based solely on the statements of the employers themselves. It kind of reeks like a politicians manifesto, whereby they tell you what you want to hear but there is little proof of their optimism trickling down to their employees. Personally, I want to hear from the women in these firms. It is great that many of these firms are producing reports around gender inequality in the workplace and they are admitting there is a problem. However, it doesn't mean anything if the women within these firms don't feel it. Basing these results on the words of the employer is concerning because for the most part, there is a disconnect between the employer and it's staff.
Secondly, these businesses are all gigantic machines, typically male dominated, very structured and obscenely hierarchical. These components don't make it very easy to create a culture and working environment in which women can flourish. It's all very well and good for these big firms to introduce policies which allow their staff members to leave at 3 o'clock, 2 days a week to pick the kids up, allowing a new Dad to take 2 weeks paternity leave (if he wants to) but there are much more complex issues revolving around these policies which don't seem to be taken into consideration, and what's worse is that they know what these complexities are because of all the research they produce! So surprise surprise, nothing really changes. Year after year, the percentage of female partners in these companies may increase by 2 or 3% - big whoop.
Which brings me nicely on to my third point, these big massive businesses are being praised for slightly increasing the trickle of women down the leadership pipeline setting partnership targets at 25 or 30% by 2020 - What?! This seems absurd to me when I know there are national firms who do have equal numbers of men and women already in their partnership. So really, this list is just another way market dominating businesses like this can swindle their names in the press.
Personally, where I have seen women flourish the most is in more flat structured or smaller businesses where they don't have anyone watching them clock in and out and they become accountable for their own success. Why wait for a promotion when you can promote yourself? Why carry the guilt of leaving the office early when you know you put more hours in at home? Why even go to the office at all?
One brilliant example of this is ThoughtWorks - a global business who have a flat structure. At the first High Flying Women event which was focused around the topic of work life balance, the ladies from ThoughWorks told me that they struggled to relate to the challenges expressed by the women who were from the more corporate, hierarchal businesses (some of which appear in this list). Because, ultimately they don't feel the same restrictions and they don't have to struggle against their business culture. As a result they work hard because they feel free from both external and internal judgement.
Personally, I think it is these types of businesses which deserve to be named in the "Top 50 employers for women."
According to a report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), titled 'Dispelling the Myths of the Gender “Ambition Gap”' women are equally as ambitious as men at the start of their careers. However, during the course of their careers, both gender's ambitions declined with female’s ambitions weakening faster than men’s - but only at companies that don’t embrace gender diversity. At organisations where employees report the least progress on gender diversity, the ambition gap between women and men 20- and 30-years-old was 17% with 66% of women seeking promotion, compared with 83% of men.