The proportion of women working as interim managers has reached its highest level, claims Interim Partners.
Women now make up 39% of all interim managers placed in the third quarter of 2010, compared to just 28% two years ago.
Interim managers work on a contract basis or just below board level.
In contrast, the Female FTSE Board report, pusblished last month by Cranfield University School of Management, revealed only 12.5% of FTSE 100 permanent board directors are women.
The proportion is even lower in FTSE 250 companies where just 7.8% of directors are women.
Doug Baird, managing director at Interim Partners, said: ”Women are increasingly attracted to working as interim managers. It offers them an alternative way to reach the very highest rungs of the corporate ladder.
”Interims tend to be judged purely on results rather than how good they are at playing office politics, which is attractive to many women.
”The unfortunate reality is that even at the most senior levels of an organisation there can be a bit of a locker room mentality but that is much less of an impediment for interims who don’t face pressure to win acceptance on that level in order to progress within permanent management roles.”
Research carried out by the Reward Technology Forum (RTF) found that the average female board director took home £178,246 in salary, bonuses, benefits, and pension contributions in 2008-9, whlie the average male director received £357,358.
”Interims can earn significantly more than their permanent counterparts, so these roles enable women to break through the earnings glass ceiling they might face in permanent management roles,” says Baird.
”When interims start a new role, they have to be able to hit the ground running and complete complex projects quickly and efficiently. Being able to communicate effectively, juggle demanding workloads and manage stakeholder expectations are all essential skills which all play to what are regarded as women’s traditional strengths.
”If you are an interim entering a brand new working environment every six months to implement a substantial programme of change then you need first class diplomatic skills.
”Many women also enjoy the wider variety of work which interim management offers. it is an entrepreneurial role, which is as close to running your own business as most executives will get within a corporate environment. Successful candidates relish this challenge.”
Women had been previously slower than men to become interims as they had felt that switching from a permanent role to become a contractor was too risky a move, claims Interim Partners.
However, senior management redundancies made in the last recession has shown that the safety of a full time job is not as robust as once thought.
Baird said: ”When a company hits trouble there is now far less reluctance to find cost savings amongst senior management than before. The recession has shown that if a company does not need your skills then they will let you go.
”Women realise that the risks of becoming an interim manager are not as great as they once were.”