The recent celebration of International Women’s day and the ongoing reporting of the gender pay gap has led me to reflect on female leadership across the recruitment industry.

As a male leader in a global recruitment firm, how can I use my privilege and position to effect real change? Change that not only will have an impact on my organisation but across the recruitment industry in general.

I will be the first one to tell you that I don’t have the answers. Like many, I am on my own journey as a leader in an ever-changing work environment. From addressing our unconscious bias to building a culture of inclusion (not to mention tackling the pay gap in recruitment, as highlighted by Page Group pay gap figures), it is clear that across the board as male leaders we all need to do more.

However, as a father of a ten-year-old daughter who is both a keen footballer and huge football fan, not having all of the answers is tough. She is already questioning the significant pay divide between male and female footballers and why inequality exists in the first place.

My daughter is unaware of the importance of International Women’s Day and the UK Gender pay gap, but she has made me realise that I have a responsibility to do more. I hope I can find the answers and collaborate with other leaders outside of my organisation, I have decided to start writing about my experiences as a leader. Share the things I have learnt and the steps we are taking to move things forward, but see what other businesses are also doing.

Especially because the two most inspirational leaders that had the most profound effect on my career to-date were both women.

Even though I work in a business that has 45% of female leaders, I have always wondered why this number is the exception rather than the norm in recruitment.

They were outstanding leaders and I was incredibly fortunate to work for them. What set them apart for me was simple – their authenticity. They were authentic leaders, true to themselves, aware of their strengths, their limitations with the ability to show humility and be courageous in their decision-making.

Without their guidance, I would not be the leader that I am today. They both taught me a very valuable lesson in managing conflict as an authentic leader. They coached me on the importance of being candid, while not forgetting my audience.

As a young leader, I was very prone to jumping into difficult situations head-on. This left me and others very bruised because of my lack of diplomacy. Both leaders helped me develop my emotional intelligence and my ability to have honest conversations. I know, it sounds so simple, but even now after 15 years of putting this into practice, I still need to reflect and remind myself of how to deal with more challenging conversations with my team.

Over the last 12 months, I have worked very closely with our management team trying to identify our future leaders. Through a 360-review programme and the High-Performance Trait Indicator (HPTI) assessment, a Thomas International Tool that highlights leadership potential, it was clear to see the differences in leadership styles.

Across the group of 22 future leaders, the HPTI highlighted that our female leaders were far more comfortable in confronting challenging situations and having difficult conversations with their people – something we as a business have identified as a success indicator for our management community.

I believe that not enough has been done to help our leaders (especially our female leaders) realise their potential, develop their emotional intelligence and ultimately become authentic leaders.

So that is my challenge as I roll out the second phase of the Future Leaders Programme next month, where the core content will be based on authentic leadership.

If you are also facing the same challenge, I would love to hear from you. What worked and what didn’t work? What are the lessons?

I genuinely believe that as an industry we can get a lot more out of collaborating on this. So if you have the time, I will buy the coffee!

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