Time to Get With It: Creating Successful Women's Leadership Programs

By: Angela Grosvenor

Today, despite the fact that women comprise almost half of the workforce, they hold only 15% of S&P executive positions, and run a mere 3% of Fortune 500 companies (Stroope & Hagemann, 2011). In a Global Leadership study conducted by DDI, it was revealed that “in terms of first-level leaders, 59% are men and 41% are women.” Thus, as women approach mid and senior level management positions, they are somehow falling off the management track. Why is that?

Some organizations do not have leadership development programs for women because of a:

  • Lack of development opportunities as a major barrier to women advancing in leadership roles.
  • Low- quality leadership development program at all management levels.
  • Lack of an effective management culture because they are focused solely on bottom-line growth.

A few of the reasons are:

  • Inability to see the need for such a program
  • Lack of personnel qualified to teach such a program
  • Time and expense involved in running the program

Research shows that women bring unique characteristics and capabilities to the leadership challenges they face. Organizations who devote the personnel, time and expense to implement a Women’s Leadership Development Program have also adopted more innovative management practices and more frequently outperformed their competition. Can you think of company like that? [Related: Don't Know What's Wrong With Your Company? It's The Leadership]

Benefits of Implementing a Women’s’ Leadership Development Program in Your Organization

1. Organizations that confront the gender gap and make efforts to appeal to and retain female talent will be better prepared to take advantage of a larger pool of emerging leaders.

2. Having a better balance of women in top leadership positions can mean a more diverse team of leaders with different perspectives and a greater ability to contribute new ideas.

3. Having both women and men in leadership roles helps organizations reflect the customers they serve, giving the perspective needed to increase sales and fuel growth.

4. Organizations that create a culture of equal opportunity and diversity are better able to attract, retain, and motivate the most qualified individuals. I can attest to that. I recently worked with a very talented Program Engineer who was in transition. She had found a great position on LinkedIn and when describing the job, she said: I found the perfect job….! The organization even has a “Women Leadership Development Program! I want to work for a company that invests in developing women leaders”.

The company's employees do not need to run the program; there are many experienced leadership coaching professionals that have expertise in women’s leadership development that already have the resources to implement and teach such a program in your organization.

What should be focused on in a Women’s Leadership Development Program?

When creating female-specific leadership development programs for companies, certain topics tend to be especially relevant and useful for women. These include the following:

  • Essential leadership skills matched to leadership challenges.
  • How to enhance their personal influence in the organization.
  • Improving their business acumen with a more sophisticated understanding of marketing, talent management, financial monitoring and reporting, and goal setting and evaluation.
  • The art of negotiation.
  • Conflict management and resolution.

Traditional leadership topics should also be covered in training. Such areas may include: strategic thinking, delegation, performance management, team-building, emotional intelligence, and presentation/communication skills.

Developing all leaders - male or female - is very important in the workplace, but as organizations increasingly strive to improve leadership development for diverse cultures, they shouldn't forget about the diversity between genders as well.

This article previously appeared on ​LinkedIn.

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Angela Grosvenor is an Executive & Leadership Coach at Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching. She is passionate about helping executives, high potentials and managers become better, more effective leaders, achieve their goals and experience even greater personal satisfaction in their work.

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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