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What can organizations do to support more women in becoming people leaders?

Shivangi Shinari

Shivangi Shinari

March 28, 2023 6 min read

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In 2021, the proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 31%, the highest number ever recorded. According to research, for every 100 men who get promoted to a managerial position, only 85 women receive the same honor. Understanding why this phenomenon is recurring despite similar competence levels has become increasingly important and is a key step to support women in becoming people leaders.

In a fast-paced and competitive field like business, we need to utilize all our human resources and assets optimally for growth. The lack of women in managerial roles defeats this goal of maximizing the company’s utility. It is time for underrepresentation to be addressed by organizations. Here are a few things we can do to support and ensure more gender-diverse management by encouraging more women to become people managers and leaders.

The A-B-C-D of creating more managers at the workplace:  

Acknowledge strengths and vulnerabilities:

I was 9 years old, studying in the 3rd grade – when I would struggle to see what the teacher wrote on the blackboard. When I struggled to see the math problems, I usually relied on my memory to hear what the teacher said and solved the math question. This eventually became a routine. It took 8 months and a visit to an ophthalmologist to figure out that I was far sighted and needed spectacles. To me, this is a classic case of denial – unwillingness to admit flaws, defects or anything anomalous. The tendency is to “adjust” and a lot of women do it regularly (professionally or personally). 

To help women succeed as managers, it’s important to make them self aware of their areas of competency – strengths and gaps. 

How does one do it?

By sharing feedback through conversations or encouraging them to get their ‘people perception’ profile evaluated. How well are they perceived to communicate? Do they set expectations clearly? Do they stay true to their commitments? …encouraging them to ask many such questions to themselves and the people they collaborate with. Usually it’s difficult to get objective, unbiased feedback through conversations, hence it’s best to use anonymous tools to understand strengths and blind spots.

Assessments also help break stereotypes wherein determined and competitive women have been deemed too masculine and collaborative and family-oriented women are too feminine for a workspace. 

A technology company couples this with weekly “Appreciation Tennis”, where the reporting manager also talks about the positive micro-decisions they saw the female colleague take and asks them to share their own inventory of things done well. Create a safe space to acknowledge both achievements and vulnerabilities.  Encourage them to seek help – show them how to do it.

Build Capability

Our educational system and on-the-job training, prepare us reasonably well for functional skills. Relationship skills are what we expect managers to acquire as they get promoted – possibly as a function of experience.

To help women succeed in managerial roles, help them first understand how one succeeds in a managerial role at your organization and what it takes to get there. The measures of success in managerial roles in two consulting companies may also differ, if one is a startup and the other is a global brand, although their services may be very similar.

While this was about ascertaining capability, being ‘able to speak up’ is a common hurdle women face, when it comes to demonstrating capability. 

Research suggests that men do 75% more  talking, during regular business meetings.

This isn’t obvious because men have more to say. Confidence plays a huge role. As an HR / Business leader or a working professional, give women colleagues the opportunity to lead meetings and thereby build confidence. Prep them up, use positive interjections like “that’s an interesting point of view”, to validate their ideas. 

At Great Manager Institute®, we have created a Community that allows female managers from our client organizations to seek mentoring/coaching and a networking opportunity with a Community of other Managers/Leaders.

Create a Brand:

Everyone has their own personal brand. But not everyone knows how to make it work in their favor. A brand differs from a product, in the fact that a brand is usually derived through how others (typically customers) perceive you. In today’s world, everyone is our customer – be it professionally or personally, and every interaction is a moment of truth.

To help women succeed as leaders, organizations must help them understand what their personal brand today looks like. Help women colleagues identify forums where they can talk about their work, their leadership style and brand themselves – without thinking “how much is too much?”.

Devise policies that support a better representation of women:

Begin by giving women a voice at the table. If your female colleague has a great idea, champion her and  make sure she gets the applause, instead of letting someone else take the credit. 

Lastly, however contrarian it may sound – if your company is invited to participate in a panel, refuse to take part if there is no female representation on that panel. The first step to change is to demonstrate the change through your own actions.

If you are a policymaker - listen to them when making policies.

While designing policies, companies must have enough representation from women to support their growth as people leaders. Policies dictate the day-to-day working of the company. If we wish to create a managerial panel that is gender-diverse, we must start from the very bottom. Research shows that the new service economy relies heavily on women’s natural abilities for long-term strategic vision and community building. Having more women in managerial positions is the first step to fixing the depleting pipeline of women leaders in our organizations.

Implementing these strategies will help you support the growth of more women as people leaders.

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