Women currently hold 4.4% of CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies. Kudos to the group that made it this far! And while this is certainly progress, the statistic only reiterates the deep-rooted inequality women face in male-dominated industries.
This is not to say that organisations should overlook a qualified, competent male only to check off boxes. But it’s appalling that even at some of the biggest and so-called progressive firms, deserving women are consistently overlooked and make up a tiny percentage of c-suite roles.
Having more women in leadership roles is an important milestone not only to battle stereotypes but also in ensuring that more women are in positions of authority to decide on issues that affect them.
How do companies attract, retain and develop women in leadership roles? Here are some ways organisations can cultivate female leadership:
Mentoring and development opportunitiesBecause the problem won’t fix itself, firms need to be actively involved in levelling the leadership playing field for women. Organisations need to work toward getting senior leaders involved in mentoring and encouraging talented women within the firm.
Active role models are key to building confidence and developing leadership in the workplace. Having a champion advocating for you will empower you to take calculated risks and pursue new opportunities. Women’s groups are also incredibly valuable in coaching and supporting female staff.
Recruiting mandateMany studies show that gender diversity and female leadership have a positive impact on profitability. These findings reiterate why firms need to be committed to increasing the number of women they hire. Setting up a committee of peers dedicated to the cause is an effective way to hire more women. There are also new tools on the market that can help boost a diverse candidate pool by eliminating unconscious biases.
Additionally, when filling their leadership pipeline, firms should look internally first for potential candidates rather than hiring people from competitors.
Revamping company policiesThere can be a slowdown period for women who have recently had babies - but that is no reason for them to fall behind their male counterparts when it comes to career progression. Work-life balance is critical to allow women to juggle their careers, child care and generally keeping it together. No employee should feel guilty for staying at home to tend to their family’s needs. Flexible work programs and increased child-care leave are tangible ways a company can affect mind-sets while boosting morale and motivation.
Launching internal day care programs and after school care initiatives are also a good way to help employees with families manage demanding jobs.
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