Magazine article Management Today

Females Fly Higher at the BBC

Magazine article Management Today

Females Fly Higher at the BBC

Article excerpt

'The BBC is a member of Opportunity 2000 and is committed to equal opportunities. As a result, when we came to examine ourselves, it came as something of a shock to find less than 10% of senior staff were female.'

Laurence Benson, equality manager at the World Service, is frank as he explains the reasons behind the award-winning scheme he pioneered with training specialist, the Karsh Consultancy. 'We were clearly recruiting women on equal terms with men at the lower levels, but this just wasn't reflected further up.'

Closer examination revealed that a large part of the problem was due to too few women applying for senior posts. Tackling the problem was far from simple, not least because positive action can easily be seen as preferential treatment. This was one good reason for bringing in outside expertise to give a fresh angle. 'Staff can say things to an external consultant that they could never say internally,' explains Harriet Karsh.

Accordingly, Karsh and Benson drew up a programme designed to influence not merely the trainees themselves but the rest of the World Service. 'We needed a big bang approach - to challenge the organisation and to involve it in the answer,' explains Benson. Potential high-flyers were invited to apply for the course after talking to their line managers. This ensured that bosses were made aware of their employees' aspirations and this in its own right had a positive impact.

Altogether some 300 female employees enquired about the scheme and 90 applied to join, of whom 23 were chosen. 'We were looking for a core group of women who demonstrated a real talent for leadership and the ability to think strategically about their careers,' says Karsh. The successful applicants came from all levels and divisions of the Service and ranged in age from 25 to 50.

The two-year programme had three main training components. …

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