Rental ﬁrm Enterprise Rent-A-Car recently promoted seven women to management roles, bringing the proportion of women at that level to 36 per cent. In what is traditionally considered a male-dominated industry, the company is making a conscious effort to bring female graduates on board and ensure that they rise-up through the ranks, according to Leslee O’Loughlin, group human resources manager with Enterprise.
“Approximately 18 months ago, we implemented our female leadership programme because we are very committed to gender parity in senior levels within the organisation,” said O’Loughlin.
“They are paired with a senior manager who acts as a mentor for them over an 18-month period. The female manager is asked to identify speciﬁc challenges to their own development as well as professional goals and targets that they want to realise from the programme. “Ten they work strategically with that senior manager to try to address those challenges and achieve those targets.” O’Loughlin said two issues were regularly coming up with the women going through the programme – conﬁdence and perception.
Both seem to affect women more than men, she said. “Conﬁdence comes from experience and we are working very hard to help them realise their full potential by providing the training, support and development that they need,” she said.
“With the perception, a lot of that is getting them to understand that senior managers within the organisation are committed to their overall long-term success. “So, that perceived notion that they are not good enough for the role or someone doesn’t want them in the role is something that we are continuing to challenge them on and make sure that they understand that we are committed to their success.”
The goal is to have parity of gender across management within two years, and the approach is top-down. Chief executive Pam Nicholson has been named one of Forbes Magazine’s Top 100 most powerful women in business, and the company has implemented ﬂexible working practices and generous maternity leave.
“We have an alternate work arrangement that we make available to folks and we are very focused on promoting that internally. So if there needs to be an adaption in their work schedule to accommodate a family issue or something that they are dealing with in their personal life, they can do that,” said O’Loughlin.
“Our mums are paid for the whole time that they are on maternity leave, and we have a great phase-back beneﬁt that allows women to more easily phase back into the workplace.
If you have been gone for six months, it can be a bit of a culture shock when you are back to full-time employment,” she said. There has been an impact on the bottom line, O’Loughlin believes.
“We have seen a steady increase in female hires, female population and females in management and over the last two ﬁnancial years in Ireland we have also had record high years in terms of proﬁt, growth and customer retention. It is a testament to the fact that diversity is good for business,” she said.
This article is an extract from the Sunday Business Post 22nd June ” Giving women a fair chance” by Gareth Naughton.