By Eryka T. Johnson
Are you doing your part to develop more women professionals for leadership roles in your organization?
Catalyst, a leading nonprofit organization with a mission to accelerate programs for women through workplace inclusion, maintains a list of Women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. To date, women only hold 21 or 4.2% of CEO positions at these organizations. And with Ursula Burns current CEO of Xerox stepping down once the company splits into two, the number reduces to 20.
Where are women in leadership? Research suggests that women enter the leadership pipeline but often never reach senior or C-suite level positions. Even if you don’t manage a Fortune 500 company, you can influence change in your current organization. In today’s article, let’s discuss strategy on what you can do to build a bridge for more women in leadership.
Here’s a simple strategy to get more involved:
Find a woman leader with potential and mentor her.
Don’t wait for her to come to you. I know this goes against the norm as mentees typically seek out mentors. But, the perfect female candidate could be in your organization but still struggling with a lack of confidence preventing her from approaching another successful woman at the level she desires to reach. In fact, studies continue to show that confidence is the main barrier that keeps women from reaching the top. This is another discussion topic for a future article.
There are women that have the potential to lead at higher levels but simply need refining, development, and guidance. Although not a small responsibility, it is rewarding. Imagine being a part of something outside yourself that positively impacts the movement to see more women excel in business and leadership.
Advocate and build awareness around barriers women experience in your organization.
Although your career may be on the right track, a large percentage of women professionals experience unhappiness with the progression of their careers and ultimately feel undervalued and stuck. In a study of Harvard Business School MBAs, nearly 49% of women interviewed expressed discontentment with the development of their careers. Think about it for a moment. A well trained Harvard business graduate groomed for high level leadership not satisfied with her career.
Barriers exist for women including corporate culture, lack of leadership soft skills like personal branding, confidence and executive presence to mentorship and sponsorships. Spark the discussions. Get male management involved in the conversations. As an integrated team, develop strategies that will change your organization and the career trajectory of high achieving women.
Connect, connect, connect!
As high achieving women, get actively involved in women affinity groups. Yes, your presence is needed as an advisor or sponsor to the leadership team but challenge yourself to connect at a deeper level with the group as a whole. Share your successes. Be candid about your failures and the practical strategies used to create momentum and change. Conversations need to be beyond the typical fluff of work hard, be polite, smile and you will be promoted. Tell the ugly truth. What do you still struggle with as an executive leader? Be human and create a real connection. Share the leadership behaviors that make women more successful in the workplace.
I would love to hear what your organization is currently doing to promote more women or where you could use some help in this area. Send an email to email@example.com or call my office at 1-877-629-5624.
Eryka T. Johnson