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Generating diversity in the interim management sector

Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 11 Oct 2011 23:41 GMT
Author: Charles Russam
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Charles Russam is chairman of Russam GMS. The opinions expressed are his own.

I have been working in the interim management sector for 30 years, and even today, it is male dominated, with only around 20 percent of the industry comprised of women.

I want this to change, which is why in 2007 I set up Interim Women, a business network for women working as interim managers to address this gender imbalance.

My goal is to make the interim market more diverse, but in order for this to happen a greater number of women need to become interim managers.  

To encourage senior women in business to consider interim management as a career option, we wanted to gain insight into the realities, challenges and benefits they faced starting out.

We recently surveyed 1,600 women working as interims about why they became interims, asking them  for advice and tips for women who may be considering it as a career option. 

We have produced a new report, ‘Women in Interim Management – how to succeed, the opportunities and challenges’ based on our research.

The research highlighted that the drivers behind leaving their permanent careers were the desire to work for different clients in diverse industry sectors, be their own boss and have greater flexibility in their working lives.

Another major attraction cited was that interim management offers them a means of gaining new skills and experience.  Interestingly, in spite of the fact that they command an average of 940 dollars (604 pounds) per day, money was not a major motivator for them. 

However, the research also exposed some challenges they faced starting out.

The number one challenge was securing and winning their first assignment; the second was networking and marketing to win business and the third was defining their professional product to clients.

Half of all women found the transition from permanent to interim work difficult and said that it took several months or more to find work, with some taking up to a year.

However on a brighter note, not everyone found it hard - 37 percent found it easy to start their Interim careers, with many taking just a few weeks to secure their first assignment. 

The advice from interim managers to ‘would be’ interim managers was inspirational.

Much of the advice given focused on the importance of networking and marketing, and of being totally committed to an interim management career rather than using it as a stop gap.

They also talked about the need to create a financial buffer, to be clear about what to offer clients and their value proposition. They also stressed that interims need to be confident and positive at all times even if an assignment isn’t yet in the pipeline.

What’s so impressive about these findings if that these women are experienced, determined and resilient, but they undertake interim work because they are passionate both about being their own boss and working with different clients on challenging assignments.

Yes, the majority of women confessed that interim management is hard work, but it seems being their own boss is worth the sacrifices!

One final important thing to point out is that there is clearly a major pool of experienced, hard working and senior level women interims out there, who could maybe help your business out with a tough challenge.

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