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HomeWomen EntrepreneurFostering women leaders: A fitness test for your top team

Fostering women leaders: A fitness test for your top team

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How do organizations foster Women Leadership initiatives? The gender gap challenge continues at senior leadership positions for women, although they represent a majority of entry-level employees at the Fortune 500 companies. The challenges are well known – but the most important question is what are the organizations doing to mitigate the challenge?

Here are some practices which can definitely generate forward thinking and transformational conversations for the executive teams:

1. Build a talent pipeline for women

Awareness is the first step. Companies should consider the benefits of transparency: the act of publicly sharing data on gender diversity. Some companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo have taken this step and initiated conversations on what they can do to bring about change.

2. Skill building for women

Skill building women

Companies must provide opportunities for creating and broadening networks and build capabilities required to thrive; like resilience, grit and confidence. These will create the sustenance to deal with mistakes and challenges; and above all recover and rise above challenging situations and transform these experiences into self-assurance.

3. Introduction of sponsorship programs and role models

Seeing female role models creates a huge impact on younger women. Companies should focus on sponsorship and creating opportunities. Formal sponsorship programs help fill the opportunity gap and encourage women to aspire higher. Women leaders, need to make themselves more visible as role models. At e-bay for example, SVPs and VPs set a goal for developing women talent by sponsoring five of them. Such efforts have helped in doubling the number of women in leadership roles.

4. Weeding out the unconscious biases

One of the biggest challenges. This shadows women and sets them up for failure. Some companies are making efforts to root out these biases by action items like trainings, surveys (to gain insight) and policy remedies. “George Halvorson was chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, he introduced the “rule of two” to encourage diversity and help avoid the “just like me” bias that’s prevalent in many promotion decisions. For appointments at the VP level and above, Halvorson encouraged leaders to bring three candidates, and no more than two of them could have a similar demographic profile—for example, sex or race.”

5. Revisiting existing policies

Child-leave and maternity policies are areas for improvement. Both Google and Yahoo increased the number of days allowed for child-leave. Companies are encouraging men to take paternity leave. Part-time and flexible work policies should also be encouraged.

Case Study

The Westpac case study

Chief Executive Women is the pre-eminent organisation representing Australia’s most senior women leaders from the corporate, public service, academic and not-for-profit sectors. They strive to educate and influence all levels of Australian business and government on the importance of gender balance. The case study gives a detailed review of the independent assessment of the policies, practices and outcomes at Westpac on gender equity. It also talks about the Leadership Shadow model which helps leaders everywhere to listen, learn and lead by understanding the impact of their personal actions on creating gender balance.

Key Findings:

1. Leaders at the top to drive the gender equality and embed as a business goal.
2. Build a talent pipeline.
3. Companies must provide opportunities for creating and broadening networks and build capabilities required for women to thrive.
4. Flexibility and improvements required in the existing policies esp the child-leave and maternity.
5. Sponsorship programs and role models prove to be a huge encouragement for women to aspire higher.

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