Women In Leadership: Close That Gap!

Women In LeadershipBy: Louise Korver

There is a daunting amount of research from some of the world’s best thinkers at Bain, Deloitte, McKinsey, and Mercer about the advantages of a diverse leadership team. This blog is not about confirming the need, but about solutions that work. The focus is on a different kind of women’s leadership – with fresh perspective gleaned from award-winning organizations that are making a difference.

While space limits us from providing equal coverage for all the strategies that work, this blog tackles one of the seventeen best-in-breed ways you can tune your strategy and crack the code on gender equality. Here are my Top 17 strategies, which you can read more about in the March 2016 edition of Diversity Executive magazine.

  1. Update Your Internal Research
  2. Engage sponsorship from the Board and CEO
  3. Connect this Initiative to Business Strategy
  4. Improve Selection & Retention
  5. Develop a pre-initiative toolkit
  6. Revitalize Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
  7. Focus on Career Development
  8. Provide Executive Assessment
  9. Offer specialized Executive Education
  10. Document Individual Development Plans (IDPs)
  11. Create Peer Learning Triads
  12. Focus on Executive Coaching
  13. Use Action Learning
  14. Start an Alumni Association
  15. Measure, measure, measure
  16. Institute Family-Friendly Policies
  17. Get Women on Boards

Focusing just on #7, “Focus on Career Development,” I’d like to share my point of view and some recommended action for leaders of Executive Development.

For executives, managing their own careers is critically important, but one of the most often overlooked. My experience is that rather than understand the fundamentals of career and succession planning, women pay more attention to current performance in the current job. This issue of “consistently exceeds performance expectations (Catalyst, 1996) is to the detriment of strategic career planning. (Hopkins, 2008).

Why do women do this? Because women tend to take care of others first, and they develop along a path of competencies that uses more time, so both factors slow women down as compared to career paths developed by men for men. Academic, peer-reviewed research has proven that women’s developmental life stages are different. It is also true that women have less mobility within and between organizations and are more dependent on formal promotion procedures in the corporation than are men (Hopkins, 2008). If we to pay attention to the developmental issues of women, we have seen stunning progress in their careers.

A “portable career path” that allows for on and off ramps, and the planning for a long and accomplished career well into their 60s, is attractive to many who have the balancing act ahead of them with family and work. Prioritizing the skills and abilities needed for success at different levels of the leadership pipeline impacts women’s career focus, development activities, and sense of success. Personal life planning provides a balanced perspective on what helps a woman feel fulfilled.

Why do we make this so difficult? It’s simple enough to state that “five out of nine key leadership attributes, according to McKinsey research, are found more commonly in women: people development, setting expectations/rewards, being a role model, inspiriting, and participatory decision making.” (Eudemonia, 2015) These same leadership attributes take more time in practice than the men’s primary attributes, which, according to McKinsey and Eudemonia, are individualistic decision-making and control and directive action, according to recent research. So, why don’t we focus the attention where it makes the most difference?

I encourage you to consider your women leaders and their development priorities in your 2016. If you would like help in building or improving a women’s leadership development initiative based on the 17 Best Practices, please contact us.

If you help them, they will make a huge difference in your company’s competitiveness.

About the author:

Louise Korver is a Sr. Consultant, Executive Development Expert and C-Suite Coach with EDA. She has an extensive background in executive education academically, as well as practical experience working for large organizations such as AT&T, Heinz North America, and Bank of America.