The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is calling for managers to get behind a campaign to inspire more young people about their careers and raise aspiration, especially among young female managers. It comes as a new white paper warns that many women can’t see examples of successful women in top management jobs – leaving them uninspired and unambitious when it comes to their own career development.

The white paper, Women in Management: The Power of Role Models, brings together expert insight from successful managers plus data from a recent CMI survey of over 1,700 managers. It found that 81% of women believe that having a role model helps raise aspirations – but 55% say there aren’t enough role models to choose from.

Top leaders from business, government, science and academia offer practical insights about the managers who inspired them, plus tips to help young managers find their own role models. Key points included:

  • Have a ‘pulse and a purpose’? You can be a role model. Sue O’Brien, CEO of Norman Broadbent, said anyone can inspire others: “We often make the mistake of thinking you have to overachieve in order to be a role model. I think you just need to have a pulse and a purpose. If you’ve got that you can be somebody’s role model.”
  • Successful women inspire others – Helen Fraser, CEO of the Girls’ Day School Trust and former MD of Penguin, was inspired by working for Dame Marjorie Scardino: “Working for a company with a female CEO was absolutely transformative for the women in that company. It made the most enormous difference. She had a huge influence on all of us. She inspired us. And she led the company in a very different, but very successful way.”
  • Men are role models, too – or at least, they should be. Minister for Women and Equalities Jenny Willott MP said: “changing a culture in the workplace isn’t just an issue for women. It’s an issue for men as well”.  James Bardrick of Citi urged men to actively support talented women: “Men, don’t live with the excuse that younger women haven’t got a role model because we’ve run out of senior women. Be that role model.”
  • “Pick and choose” your role models – learn from the strengths of different people. Kim Winser, founder of Winser London, said that Lord Andrew Stone, Sir Richard Greenbury and Clinton Silver all inspired her when at M&S: “what I learnt from each of them were completely different things but they were all very important to me”.
  • Take risks – mentors need to encourage women to take more risks, like putting themselves forward for promotions even if they don’t feel they are a perfect match. Rebecca Taylor, Dean of the Open University Business School, said: “There’s a big role for women in the more senior roles saying, actually it’s not about ticking every box, it’s about the development that you learn within the role, so go for it.”
  • Diversity is a business priority – Lorna Gibson, Chair of the Women in Management network, pointed out that “diversity in organisations delivers results. Having more women in managerial positions not only benefits the bottom line, it also enhances the workplace culture through increased employee engagement, stronger ethical values and greater customer satisfaction.”
  • We need to inspire children – both at school and at home. Victoria Sanz-Moreno, Cancer Research Development Fellow, said both her parents – a scientist and a teacher – fostered her aspirations as a young girl: “When I was growing up I really wanted to be like both my parents. I wanted to do something important and help people, but I wanted to be nice too. I’ve been trying to combine them throughout my career.” New platforms to inspire young people in schools are crucially important.

CMI is now calling on its members to help ‘inspire the future’: by providing mentoring or sponsorship to talented women, or signing up to inspire young people through the Inspiring the Future scheme. A free service that matches volunteers with schools across the UK, Inspiring the Future seeks a commitment from professionals of just one hour, once a year, to go into state schools and colleges to talk about their jobs and help young people understand the working world. The Inspiring the Future: Inspiring Women campaign aims to get 15,000 inspirational women from Apprentices to CEOs signed up and talking to 250,000 girls by the end of 2014.

Ann Francke, CMI’s Chief Executive, said: “Good role models inspire us, give us new ideas and show us that things can be different. There are the so-called idols whose names are writ large across the night sky. But there also those role models who are more accessible, who can teach us how to do things and instil a belief that we can achieve great things. We urgently need more people like this to encourage and motivate young people, which is why we’re asking managers to give one hour, once a year to Inspiring the Future.

“It’s especially important that we inspire girls and young women to pursue rewarding careers. Experienced managers can also make a huge difference by mentoring or sponsoring younger managers. Helping more talented young women fulfil their potential is absolutely vital if we’re going to create gender-balanced organisations, which the evidence shows perform better. We need to tap into the power of role models to transform workplace cultures. By inspiring others, managers can help make change happen.”

The CMI survey found that almost double the proportion of male managers are aiming for CEO posts in the next two years compared to women (7.1% and 4.0% respectively) while, looking ahead a decade, a quarter of women want to be in board-level positions compared to almost 4 in every 10 men (38%). The white paper also includes an employer case study from Citi, highlighting the global efforts of the bank to improve retention and progression rates among women which have included workshops for managers, specific development opportunities for talented women, and “Meet the Seniors” events allowing staff to learn from potential role models at the top of the company.

CMI has also announced that it’s supporting Women of Influence, the Cancer Research campaign which is aiming to raise £1m in funding for research to fight cancer while also providing mentoring for talented young women scientists.

The Power of Role Models white paper is available to download free of charge from where managers can also find out how to register for Inspiring the Futures and support Women of Influence.