Supported by a team of scholars from various Northern universities, the research will question how the higher education sector raises the aspirations and skills of young women as leaders.
Details of the 12-month long project were revealed by Vanda Murray, pro-chancellor and chair of the board of Governors at Manchester Met, during a keynote speech at a Northern Power Women conference in Leeds.
Led by Professor Julia Rouse and Professor Carol Atkinson, it will draw together existing data to give an updated view of female leadership in the north.
A study conducted earlier this year on gender diversity by Marcus Noland, Tyler Moran and Barbara Kotschwar for the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that, from a surveyed 21,980 firms from 91 countries, the presence of women in corporate leadership positions may improve firm performance "in a magnitude that is not small."
The study points out that diversity in the workplace as a whole has a positive impact, perhaps due to a lack of discrimination in the workplace, or an increase in the variety of skills on offer from employees.
The importance of diversity in the workplace was highlighted by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer at Facebook, when she spoke to USA Today in 2014: "endless data shows that diverse teams make better decisions."
It is this kind of diversity and forward thinking that the MUU team are hoping to instil in the region.
Vanda, who holds a portfolio of non-executive directorships including Manchester Airports Group, Bunzl plc, Exova plc and Fenner plc, said: "I firmly believe that women will play a major part in showing the rest of the country, and the world, what the North can really do. If we let them.
"I’ve worked with some great women, and I’ve also seen how confidence can be shattered if talent isn’t cherished, supported and celebrated.
"We can't continue to allow women to earn less than men and to miss out on the higher leadership roles they deserve.
"All the research proves that companies perform better on every metric - including financial - when there is a diverse balance of individuals leading the business."
In a wide-ranging speech Vanda also called for companies to develop ‘on and off ramps’ to help women leave and return to their careers, and for business leaders to review how they manage their pipeline of talent.
She added: "We are all role models and we all have a part to play in ensuring that the North finds and keeps its female talent."
While admittedly there are sectors where the workplace is becoming increasingly diverse, with women holding higher positions than their business ancestors, there are still those lacking in diversity, as digital trainer, managing director and entrepreneur Joanna Wake explained in an article for PwC Yorkshire & North East.
She pointed out that, according to recent analysis by Tech City UK and innovation charity Nesta, the UK’s digital tech industries grew 32% faster than the rest of the UK economy, with a huge increase in vacancies across the board.
However, while a report from Tech Nation highlighted that 80% of areas in the UK have seen growth in digital turnover, digital jobs and advertised digital salaries, "just 26% of jobs are held by women" in digital industries.
Furthermore only 16% of jobs in the IT sector are held by woman, and only 17% of all computer science students are female.
Joanna stresses: "We need more females in tech posts to inspire girls into these skilled sectors."
And that kind of thinking is mirrored in Vanda’s words: "We need to step up. Be vocal. Be visible.
"This is a prize worth working for. Status quo is simply not acceptable."
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