How Can We Inspire and Advance Women Leaders?
March 8th marks International Women's Day, the worldwide event which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women around the world.
This year, the campaign - #PressforProgress – is a call to action, to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
Highlighting important gender inequalities such as the pay gap, the initiative brings to the forefront the importance of supporting and empowering women in the personal and professional sphere and certainly, data released last year supports this. A global study reported that, in 2017, only 19% of senior management positions were held by women. Not only was this a significant decrease to 2016’s figure of 21%, it was also only a 1% increase from the study’s first recorded figure in 2004.
The same study also reported that the percentage of businesses in the UK with no women in senior management has increased from 36% in 2016 to 41% in 2017.
The data demonstrates how little progress has been made in over a decade and therefore begs an interesting question: what more can be done to inspire and advance women leaders?
Below, we outline some of the ways which organisations can achieve this.
Create new opportunities
With so few women in leadership positions in 2017, it’s important to question why we aren’t seeing females in the top positions. One of the reasons for this could be related to the limited opportunities for women to lead. Organisations therefore need to think differently about how to create meaningful opportunities for women who aspire to lead, considering the creation of new positions and experiences which will support them to do so.
Used by large organisations such as IBM, mentoring is an outstanding example of creating visibility of up-and-coming female leaders to top executives, as well as expose female leaders to the most strategic work at the organisation. By pairing top executives with aspiring leaders, mentoring encourages a learning environment, where skills, expertise and knowledge are shared.
Establish a network of support
According to a KPGM study, 82% of working women believe that access to, and networking with, female leaders can support them and advance in their own career. Whenever possible, organisations should provide women leaders a platform to speak, to share their experiences and expertise, including opportunities for discussion afterwards. This way, women can ask questions specific to their professional goals and ambitions, whilst also networking with fellow aspiring female leaders and enhancing their career prospects.
Introduce transparent career mapping
Finally, it is worth considering transparent career mapping and its potential impact on the workplace. This initiative can be embedded into professional development plans, promotions and networking opportunities, therefore removing barriers to development opportunities and increasing visibility to top leadership.