Women should become an interim if they want to get to the top

Aug 10 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

As new research highlights the success of women in interim management, ambitious female executives are being advised to give interim management a try if they want to get to the top of their profession.

A survey by British recruiter Executives Online has found women interims are often more successful than their male counterparts because they are perceived as being less of a threat to existing (typically male) management.

The poll of 156 interim managers found women interims were often felt to be especially efficient at being persuasive, quickly fitting in, building good relationships and so getting things done – all vital skills in the interim arena.

Women, the survey found, inherently possessed many of the skills that made them excellent interim managers.

When asked to give reasons why women in particular would make good interims, 13 per cent named being good communicators, 15 per cent said they were sensitive to the nuances of different corporate cultures, 14 per cent said because they are good relationship builders and 13 per cent because of being good networkers.

Additional reasons cited included flexibility, multi-tasking and adaptability in adversity.

One interim manager, managing director and chief executive, Gwynneth Flower, told the survey: "I enjoy interim work enormously. You continuously face new challenges. There is an immense satisfaction when you see your advice and recommendations being used.

"Women can sometimes be too self-deprecating when it comes to business. They should remember that they have an enormous amount to bring. I think with an injection of confidence they could reap the rewards of interim management," she added.

Interim management offered women a way to break through the glass ceiling that still meant women were under-represented in UK boardrooms, said the poll.

Two thirds of all those polled said were not enough female interims and one of the main reasons, cited by 18 per cent, was lack of awareness of it as an option.

Another reason, given by 10 per cent, was lack of confidence – this rose to more than 20 per cent among the female interims themselves.

But with UK businesses and public sector organisations now spending more than £500m annually on interim management, and interim managers typically commanding a day rate of around £600, the lack of women in interim positions meant women executives were missing out on the opportunity of a highly satisfying and lucrative career, said Executives Online.

"The nature of interim management should be very appealing to many women," said Norrie Johnston, managing director of Executives Online.

"It can be a useful method from a number of perspectives. In some cases, it can lead to a permanent appointment into a senior role.

"It can also be less disruptive on women's personal lives than a permanent corporate role and what's more you get away from unproductive office politics, something lots of experienced women just can't be bothered to waste their time with," she added.

The poll echoes a survey in June by interim firm Boyden Interim Management that found interim management is fast becoming the career of choice for female executives.

It found that, in the 25 to 39 age group, the percentage of women going into interim management was four and a half times larger than men of the same age group.