Women now earn more bachelor’s degrees than men, and mothers represent 40% of household breadwinners. In addition, companies that promote gender diversity are shown to outperform those that don’t by 15%. So, why are women still earning 80 percent of every dollar a man earns?
Why are there so few women in leadership positions when studies show that top-performing companies have women in the C-suite? A McKinsey Global Institute report found that if women’s equality were advanced, it could add an astonishing $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. If women have the power to create such a positive impact in the workplace, what can organizations do now to help support women in leadership?
Simply put, organizations can (and must) change their cultures. Women can only do so much to promote themselves; organizations need to step up to the plate to begin eliminating deeply ingrained biases and stereotypes about ambitious women. Here are a few metaphorical tools your organization can use to lead a cultural change.
Organizations need to provide opportunities for women to showcase their value to others. Instead of becoming so caught up in the “doing” of their jobs, encourage women to communicate how their work benefits their company – in other words, their value proposition. Communicate it across the organization and to all employees and stakeholders.
According to a Fast Company article, HubSpot has recognized the importance of advocacy for women and has encouraged women to team up with their co-workers to “humblebrag” about each other. This tool is a powerful and effective way to give women a safe space to promote themselves and their colleagues.
A Magnifying Glass
This strategy identifies the unwritten rules that may be subtly holding women back in your organization. The dynamics are constantly changing, people come and go, and new loyalties are created. This state of affairs requires a hard look under the hood and a detailed assessment of the company culture. You need to stay tuned to what’s happening and see the whole picture.
Ask what it really takes for women to move ahead in your culture, and don’t make assumptions. Ask women directly what they want and need in order to advance and what obstacles they face. Do they need more flex time? What about career paths? Their honest answers will help you develop effective programs to retain, attract and promote women.
The “Pass Go and Collect $200” Card
This “card” facilitates networks that support strategies such as women’s advancement, mentoring, cross-generational networks and career pathing. One of the most powerful ways to help women build successful careers and take control of their future is to proactively build a strategic network and create a safe environment for open discussions about the challenges women face and the opportunities available to them. The pass go card provides another advantage by supporting women with a powerful network of people who are willing and able to speak up when they achieve something impactful at work.
The “Get Out of Jail Free” Card
Learn how to create effective sponsorship programs in the post-#MeToo era. Organizations should provide opportunities for high-potential women to interact with senior executives for increased visibility. Sponsors intentionally clears the way for women to advance. They purposefully promote them and create visible opportunities for them to accelerate their path to leadership.
Not convinced about the importance of sponsorships? According to “The Sponsor Effect,” a report published by the Center for Work-Life Policy (CWLP), sponsorship provides “a statistical career benefit” of up to 30% in the form of successfully negotiating high-profile assignments, promotions and pay raises. However, men are 46% more likely than women to have a sponsor, according to the report.
Women are over-mentored and under-sponsored. As a result, they miss out on the positive impact of having a sponsor.
Use this tool in the form of a coaching program that not only helps women develop leadership skills but also teaches and encourages them to practice political savvy. In sports, coaches provide guidance to improve athletes’ performance and reach their potential. They offer support and practical tips on how to up their game. The same is true of executive coaches, who serve as partners to help leaders reach their goals and full potential. Enabling women to reach their full potential is a benefit not only to them but your organization.
Once your company adopts a new mindset about women in executive roles and encourages employees to acquire new skills and practices surrounding this culture, women can thrive in leadership and the workplace – and your organization can reap the rewards.