9 Tips to Boost Women’s Leadership
Growing the number of female leaders is an important goal in 2015 and beyond. It is widely recognised that diversity is a business imperative as businesses see the benefits of diverse teams and increasingly demand diversity to improve market share and business results. However, the numbers of women in senior leadership roles is still far short of where it should be and businesses, despite the good intentions often struggle to shift the needle.
If you are a woman, like it or not we are all role models for other women in the organisation. In the workplace, women naturally look to others who “look like us” to see how they do it.
There is much talk of women “leaning in” to their careers these days, but this alone is not enough and we can all help, male or female, by “reaching out” both to increase the impact of ourselves within the organisation and also to encourage others to provide a platform for success. Sometimes all it takes is keeping diversity top of mind when you market, recruit and mentor staff. With that in mind — here are 9 tips to improve the retention and promotion of women in your business and improve your female leadership statistics over time:
- Get to know the women you work with better
Look at the team you work with and ask yourself if you know everyone equally well. If you are a man, do you tend to know more about the men? Do you know more about their families, favourite sports teams, hobbies, etc? If you find you don’t know as much about a woman (or a man) on the team, invite them to lunch or coffee in order to learn more about her or him.
- Offer to talk to a female colleague about her business plan/career.
Sometimes women are more hesitant than men to ask for input on career prospects or ask for career advice. Pick one or two female colleagues this year and plan a meeting to discuss their career path and goals and how you can help. It may be as simple as assisting with a business plan, or making suggestions about who a woman should meet or work with in order to best position herself for promotion or business development.
- Work with female colleagues you haven’t worked with before.
We all have teams who we love to work with because we know them and they do great work. But if we work with the same people over and over again, it is a vicious cycle for those who don’t get the steady flow of good assignments and experience. Look around your organisation and identify a few women who you haven’t worked with and give them opportunities on some new matters this year. Do you know someone coming back from maternity leave? That can be a great time to catch a woman with some room on her professional plate, and help her get ramped back up.
- Take a few female colleagues to networking events throughout the year.
Getting experience at these types of functions is an important step to becoming a good networker and business developer. They can be uncomfortable or downright terrifying for associates at first. It takes practice and is helpful for more junior colleagues to see you in action in order to develop a comfort level and their own networking style. Introduce them to people and share tips on how best to follow up with people they meet.
- Make sure your teams are diverse.
Diverse teams help attract a diverse customer base, in turn growing market share and if you are having problems finding those people — then clearly time needs to be invested in training and recruiting a diverse team from a range of backgrounds.
- Publicise the great work of your female colleagues.
Stereotypically, women can be less likely than men to ‘brag.’ If a female colleague has a success, let others know, either through word-of-mouth or a strategic email to the right people. This gives credit where credit is due, and also creates a great atmosphere of trust and loyalty. Additionally, when you support others like this, they will have your back too.
- Ask questions about personal restrictions; don’t make assumptions.
Certain topics can feel uncomfortable to discuss at the office — like restrictions on work/travel during pregnancy or while breast-feeding or taking care of young kids. It can be easier to make assumptions and avoid these topics than inquire about the facts. But you may be taking away an opportunity from a woman that she would choose not to give up. Initiate an open and honest discussion and just ask the questions so that she feels included and feels she can be honest with you.
- Keep diversity in mind when recruiting.
Make sure female candidates are meeting with a variety of female staff within the organisation during the recruitment process, including women. If you have a women’s initiatives committee, ask members to assist with recruiting. If women hear about the extra things your firm does to attract and retain women, it may make them feel more comfortable about choosing you over a competitor.
- Recommend a woman for a leadership position inside or outside of the organisation.
Recommend other female colleagues for leadership opportunities — a committee or board position, a speaking engagement, a task force, new project or a training program. When you make those recommendations, keep diversity in mind — these can be great stepping stones for even higher-level leadership positions. And when women are in leadership positions, they naturally become role models for other women — a positive cycle — for now and into the future!