Corporate culture of presenteeism leads to inequality


Corporate cultures celebrate presenteeism

Over half (60 per cent) of senior executives say their productivity would be increased if their organisations played a more active role in helping them balance their work and non-work lives; the majority by 10 to 25 per cent. The research by the Inspire board network and executive search firm Harvey Nash also reveals that male dominated corporate cultures are the biggest barrier to women reaching the board, with over half (52 per cent) believing that today’s corporate cultures which celebrate presenteeism, dramatically reduce the length of time women are prepared stay and develop their career with their employer.

One-quarter (23 per cent) of respondents to “The Balancing Act: a study of how to balance the talent pipeline in business”, claimed a male-dominated culture was the single biggest barrier to female progression while well over half of all respondents (58 per cent) say their productivity would rise by 10 or 25 per cent if work fitted better with life outside the office.

To tackle this counterproductive approach to the workplace, women respondents cited an improved culture (52 per cent), flexible working (36 per cent) and the removal of unconscious bias in the workplace (23 per cent) as the most effective way to persuade them to stay longer. Men agreed with the top two, but cited better investment in technology, such as video conferencing or laptops for remote working, as their third choice (30 per cent).

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. But often the bias that creates this male dominated culture is unintentional and unconscious.

“Without realising it, senior managers often celebrate presenteeism and reward those employees who they have the most immediate access to. 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.”

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 and over 16 per cent thought it would take more than 15 years.

The survey found that just a third (34 per cent) of Boards accurately reflect the social make-up of their organisation’s customer base, with 60 per cent feeling they do not. Just under two-thirds (60 per cent) 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 food chain. Despite this, the overwhelming feeling is that gender quotas are not the answer; 67 per cent in the survey are against the introduction of these and more are in favour of targets.

A full copy of the report can be obtained from the Inspire website at:

By Sara Bean