Achieving representation in leadership with Dr. Parves Kahn

Dr. Parves Kahn joined the Now That’s Significant Podcast recently to talk about women in leadership and how we can start to achieve greater representation. With nearly three decades in data analytics, Dr. Kahn has led global insights functions across private and public sector companies, is a board member of London Women in Tech, which helps to normalize gender balance and equality in the UK's tech industries, and is part of the G100 movement - a global movement of women leaders committed to bringing about gender parity in the workplace, among other activities. Dr. Kahn has written a book on leadership, Power of Women: Stop Blocking and Start Empowering Women at Work, being published by Pearson Business Books next year. She brought her passion for diversity, equality and inclusion to the show.


She starts out, “I care a lot about diversity and inclusion, particularly at that leadership level, so it kind of follows that I thought I'd share some statistics on the proportion of women in senior and upper management in the market research industry. I quickly realized how challenging that was going to be because there is a serious dearth of research mapping the state of diversity in our own industry. This is not helped by the fact that market research at a national level isn't recognized as a standard industry classification in its own right but is often lumped together with, for example, professional services.” This makes it hard to quantify, and Dr. Kahn is pursuing avenues to address this issue. Back in 2019, one Women in Research (WIRe) study showed that only 13% of companies in the industry had a CEO who was a woman. Other industries are even lower. She said, “There is a perception that market research is a very female-dominated industry” but goes on to explain that, while that might technically be true, women are not in the leadership roles.


She continues to talk a bit about her interesting career and some of the research she undertook while writing her new book, including a survey of 2000 U.K. employees across a range of sectors. She found that that women perceive that they've had a much harder time getting into their senior leadership roles compared to a man – even with all the diversity initiatives that have been implemented over the last few years. She talks about sexist attitudes, family responsibilities, societal norms, inflexible work environments and more barriers that make it much harder for women to rise into leadership roles. She said, “the most important thing I would like to really acknowledge here to your audience is that we need to recognize that these barriers that women experience are rooted at a systemic level and they're not going to be fixed [easily].”


She talks about the importance of the work all organizations should be doing to foster an inclusive working environment that enables women to rise – “having tools and resources and processes and policies in place to make things happen otherwise it will just be talk.” Things like women’s resources, leadership programs, mentoring, equal pay, flexibility, hybrid work, better maternity and paternity policies, active recruitment of women, and many other initiatives can help. She also touches on additional challenges faced by women of color, plus the need for legislation, formal policies and processes that facilitate getting more women on boards and leadership.


Companies miss out when leadership is not diverse. “Diversity simply pays off financially. There's plenty of research which shows that companies with more diverse leadership display, for example, higher returns on capital, have higher margins, have higher earnings, share price performance and so on. I don't think we can say it's a causal relationship but I think there's certainly a strong correlation.” And companies can’t achieve representation just through tokenism or performative change. Women need to be supported at every stage, and a company's commitment to DEI must be embedded in everyday behaviors of their leaders – “it needs to permeate all the way across the entire organization horizontally vertically it can't be just a value statement that they push out on their website.”

Listen to the entire episode to learn more about the need for gender parity in leadership roles and the collective responsibility that we all have for achieving equality and inclusion.

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think

Subscribe by email