We've spent a lot of time in recent posts focusing on the best ways to approach women's leadership development. But sometimes, knowing what not to do can be as instructive as guidelines on how to do things right.
In that spirit, I present to you the following three habits to avoid when it comes to developing and retaining your female executives:
Seeing the current state of women's advancement as a "women's problem." Women still comprise only a fraction of the senior executive roles. This is still true despite the fact that women make up half of the workforce and today graduate with around twice as many degrees as men. Yet it's a mistake to brand women's failure to advance to leadership roles in greater numbers as only a "women's problem." Yes many women do struggle with "Sticky Floors" -- self-limiting beliefs, assumptions and behaviors that hold them back from achieving their own career goals and aspirations. But there are significant additional factors that keep women out of senior leadership roles, including organizations and their predominantly male leaders failing to buy into the business case for Integrated Leadership (gender balanced teams) and men's lack of awareness about the significant role they play in both the problem and potential solution.
Failure to involve men in advancing women. Typically, the responsibility to prepare women for leadership roles has been left to corporate HR and OD departments. Yet men in the organization are in a key position to effectively mentor, sponsor, and support the women on their teams. Since the vast majority of board members and senior executives are men, men have a unique opportunity to play an important role in assisting women's ascension to leadership posts. Failing to leverage both formal and informal ways that men can mentor and sponsor women in the leadership pipeline represents a major missed opportunity for both male and female executives to grow in your company -- and for companies to be more profitable.
Believing that it's enough to provide diversity training. While many organizations provide leadership development and diversity training to help women overcome the obstacles to their advancement, those efforts by themselves are not enough. Top management must commit to creating a more inclusive and accountable culture that supports balanced leadership through a variety of methods, including designing measurements to hold leaders accountable for their hiring and promotion practices. What's more, the CEO must support a corporate culture that leverages the unique perspectives of both men and women.
Let's replace these three losing tactics with more effective strategies based on a proven model of
. An Integrated Leadership approach is one that encompasses the strengths of both genders, as well as drawing on support and advocacy from the organization itself. Men, women and companies all play key roles in the solution. Men must believe in the business case for moving more women into leadership positions -- and must take action to advocate for them through mentorship and sponsorship. Women must seek and build partnerships with male leaders -- and take opportunities to build confidence and strengthen their leadership skills. Companies must develop and train men to give them the tools to effectively mentor women -- and proactively create opportunities to integrate the strengths of both male and female leaders.