During a recent speaking engagement, a female executive pulled me aside to both tell me her story, as well ask for some advice. She passionately explained: “I’m not afraid to speak my mind, but being a senior leader in a male dominated company, I am often advised not to push for more women on the leadership team… So, I hold a private woman’s group to provide mentorship and give back to the other women, especially the younger women, in the company. Do you have any suggestions as to how to succeed in convincing our management team to provide a focus on developing and advancing women in the company?”
“Ouch”, I thought to myself. It is one thing to be one or a few, but to then be discouraged to include additional women is absurd, infuriating and stressful! But she didn’t ask for my emotional response (which would not be very nice), so I focused on providing her:
LEADERtips for Igniting Female Leadership Within Business:
- Educate the leaders of your company on the gender bias and diversity issues that are not only impacting the individual employee (in this case the women), but all employees, their ability to attain talent, on the brand of the company, as well as on the overall profitability and success of the company… and include in that education that a great deal of gender bias issues are unconscious, therefore not apparent,even to the most open of leaders. From FORBES – The Hidden Reason Women Aren’t Making It To The Top
- Build and present a fact based case for women in leadership; contributing to and enhancing the two metrics every business leader (if they are one) is motivated by – market share and profits.
“In today’s increasing global, competitive, fast moving global economy, one in which women are 50% of the workforce and 80% of family consumer decision makers, only those organizations that can get both men and women to leadership will remain competitive.” Susan Clancy, PhD in Experimental Psychology from Harvard University
- Create a story and use case studies leveraging industry studies, statistics and readings, readily available online – such as the following statistics provided in the book, How Women Lead by Sharon Hadary and Laura Henderson
- Businesses with more women in leadership reported up to 69% higher financial results than those with fewer women leaders. (Pepperdine University)
- Companies with the highest representation of women in top management achieved a 35% higher return on investment (ROI) and 34% higher total return to shareholders than those with the lowest representation. (Catalyst)
- The most effective and collaborative teams have a greater proportion of women members. (MIT)
- Women’s leadership strengths are the skills most critical to today’s leadership success according to a survey of 64,000 people across 13 countries. (“Feminine” Values Can Give Tomorrow’s Leaders an Edge John Gerzema, Harvard Business Review Blog)
- Reach out to other leaders in companies who have successfully implemented Diversity, Women Leadership or Talent Development programs, with documented results, and discover what has worked or not worked for them. Include that in the above business case. Che ck out this study from Kimberly Clark’s, Unleashed campaign. Discussions Forum for women
- Identify a male colleague who ‘gets it’, and engage him in your efforts to build the business case, present it or to act on your own plan. Check out the “Men Who Get It” blog on Catalyst.Org for some great views, perspectives and facts from male leaders, such as the following by Dino E. Robusto, Executive Vice President and President of Personal Lines and Claims, The Chubb Corporation
- Initiate your own mastermind/mentoring or support group within and/or outside your company – Here is a simple guide to get you started, compliments of Ball of Fire Consulting – Igniting Their Leader Within through Masterminding.
Lastly, it is 2014… true leaders of business don’t question the value of a diverse team, in all aspects of a person, skill set and mindset – regardless of gender or anything else. However, as a long time mentor often said to me, “Bernadette, you are being to logical.” The reality is, gender diversity exists.
That said, it will not advance women anywhere by complaining about it or using it as an excuse. Every woman, and the men who get it (and they do exist), who want a change, need to push for change. Whether you take it on yourself, align yourself with others, or engage in masterminding with like minded individuals, advancing your skill set and mind set is key to IGNITE YOUR LEADER WITHIN – and that will benefit companies, men and women!