Woman using laptop and engaging in leadership development

Create a Women's Leadership Development Program

Leadership development is crucial to the success of any organization. A recent survey revealed that 86% of business leaders expressed that a well thought out leadership pipeline must be in place for an organization to be successful. While creating these necessary leadership pipelines, organizations face the issue of achieving leadership balance. That balance is heavily impacted by gender.

Statistically speaking, men have the upper hand as leaders in business. They represent 
80% of the executive suite and are twice as likely as women to advance to an executive position. There has been an increase in the number of women leaders over the past 3 years. However, many organizations are still far off from achieving any semblance of leadership balance.

A Lack of Gender Diversity in Leadership Teams

Gender equality within leadership teams is a challenge that organizations face every day. Diversifying your leadership team is about finding the right person to fill the role, regardless of gender.  

Women in leadership positions, as an underserved group, do not receive the focus and resources they require to be successful. As a result:

  • Only 29% of senior management roles are held by women
  • Only 5% of women hold CEO positions in the United States
  • Out of 100 men promoted to management, only 72 women were promoted

Companies with more women in leadership have been shown to outperform their competition by more than a third. A strong representation of women in higher administrative positions leads to improved organizational health, global competitive advantage, responsiveness to stakeholders, and a better public image.

Giving women an opportunity to work towards filling those positions gives you the opportunity to take advantage of those benefits.  

Challenges Women Leaders Face in the Workplace

Women are making moves to shatter the glass ceiling and grab leadership positions by the reigns. However, no great leader makes it to the top without obstacles. There are challenges that all women face during their journey to the top. These challenges include:

  • Traditional ideas of leadership are centered around traits that are viewed as being more common for males. These traits include confidence, decisiveness, and assertiveness. By associating these words with male leaders, organizations are forcing women to spend time proving again and again that they possess the same traits.
  • There is a lack of women leaders to act as role models or mentors. Without having others to follow, women are struggling to forge their own career path to leadership.
  • Traditional job roles are associated with gender, creating an invisible barrier for women. As leaders are typically seen as male, some executives don’t think to look for women to fill the role.
  • Women are seen as either competent or liked, but rarely both. When a woman takes charge, she is viewed as a competent leader but is often disliked due to her “aggressive” personality.
  • Professional and personal responsibilities are considered a greater burden for women. Historically, women have been expected to take the lead at home, while men lead in the business world.
  • Women are hesitant to self-advocate and therefore do not take the initiative to look for opportunities to lead.

These challenges lend themselves directly to the stereotypes that create gender inequality. To combat these challenges your organization must be willing to give women the career development opportunity needed to become successful leaders.

Best Practices for Creating a Leadership Development Program for Women

Creating a leadership development program will give your female employees the opportunity to have mobility in your organization. If you want your program to be successful, there are very clear best practices that need to be considered.

1. Redefine the Leader at Your Organization

Before planning your leadership development program, you must take the time to redefine what it means to be a leader. Provide evidence to your current leadership team on the benefits of gender diversity. This will aid in reversing the traditional views of women leaders and help your organization keep an open mind about change and inclusion.

You aren’t just redefining how the men in your organization view a leader. You also have to help your female employees see the potential to be a leader. By embracing a new mindset, you will encourage the women in your workplace to take a more active role in pursuing leadership positions.  

2. Identify Your Potential Leaders

Identifying who should participate in your leadership development program is essential to the program's success. Identifying your potential women leaders is made easier when knowing the analytics regarding:

  • Who your organization is currently hiring and plans to hire
  • Who you have already placed in your succession pipeline
  • Who you currently consider your high-potential employees

When identifying your potential leaders, it’s important that you consider all employees. By only focusing on employees you believe want to be a leader, you may miss out on the opportunity to develop a great employee.

3. Focus on Active Development

As you set your program objectives, it’s important that you focus on actively developing your women leaders. This is done by placing them in situations that require them to actively learn how to lead. This can include:

  • Giving them the opportunity to take charge when a current leader is away
  • Allowing them to collaborate with other departments on special projects
  • Delegating leadership tasks to them

Actively developing your women leaders gives them the opportunity to show your leadership team the value they bring to the organization. This will help to boost their confidence as a leader and motivate them to continue to push past any barriers.

For more information on starting a diverse mentoring program aimed at women’s leadership development, visit insala.com today to schedule a demo.

Through innovative web-based SaaS technology, Insala partners with organizations to accelerate performance and drive evidence-based decisions for organizations and their people.

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