Fortune 500 companies are spending $8 billion per year on diversity initiatives, many of which are aimed at advancing women. Companies with more women in leadership positions are shown to perform the best. Studies indicate that these companies are:
More profitable (18-69%)
More competitive (25%)
More effective because they demographically reflect the market (83%).
Yet with the percentage of women leading Fortune 500 companies stagnating at 15%, it clearly is not working.
The question of why women do not advance at a faster rate is complex and requires change at many levels. One way that has been shown to be effective for advancing women is to put the power for change in the hands of women themselves.
If women want to accelerate their careers, they have to lead themselves.
This approach requires personal leadership. Women need to take ownership and initiative to make things happen for themselves that their companies have so far been unable to achieve for all of the women.
Examples of women whom take ownership and initiative are:
– The account executive who in one year elevated herself into the top 3% of her company
– The sales executive who tripled her team’s revenue, making it the highest producing team in its region
– The marketing leader who added $849,000 to the bottom line by implementing a strategic new approach
– The senior vice president who improved her team’s productivity by 45%
One leadership development team that led efforts to help women achieve these goals not only proved to have significant numbers of their program participants move into more senior level positions as a result of these achievements: The program itself showed an increase in the retention of its program participants by 17%.
Years of experience have shown that when companies invest directly in cultivating the personal leadership of executive women, they excel in corporate leadership, as well. Meanwhile, their companies benefit from the improved financial performance associated with a balanced leadership team, beating their competition by up to a third.
The solution for companies that want to succeed in a competitive market is to take full advantage of all the potential in the organization – not just by advancing women, but by optimizing talent across the company. The following are three strategies your company can implement right now to boost the women on your team:
Special teams. Create a special project team within your company that combines executives, of both genders, with talented women who are looking to become stronger leaders by working closely with senior leadership. This will ensure that the executives’ visions for the company are streamlined and effectively communicated with multiple levels of staff, while also giving rising leaders a chance to refine their vision for their growth within the company.
Masterminds. Most women I have talked to want to find a network of supportive women with whom they may openly discuss challenges with as they pursue their goals. Mastermind groups, in their simplest form, may consist of three other women who share a common goal within the company, or who have achieved goals the other women are looking to achieve themselves. The purpose of the group is to support each other in their individual successes – together.
Personal introductions. A strategy for success for women looking to move up the ranks would be to make a point of approaching higher-level leaders within your company. Getting to know them, and communicating an aligned vision of success, can instill a sense that you are a promotable rising leader looking for more responsibility and opportunities to shine. When making a personal introduction with an executive, take the opportunity to showcase your work, and ask them for feedback.
For many companies, much of what has been tried to boost women into positions of leadership has failed. The good news is executive women have proven themselves capable of overcoming the barriers and reaching the top of their organizations.
Dr. Joelle Jay is a principal with the Leadership Research Institute, as well as an executive coach, keynote speaker, and the co-author with Howard Morgan of The New Advantage: How Women in Leadership Create Win-Wins for Their Companies and Themselves. Jay specializes in the advancement of executive women, and she is proud to have supported the development of top talent into positions of leadership for many successful companies. For more information visit www.TheNewAdvantageBook.com.
Did you enjoy this post? If so, I highly encourage you to take about 30 seconds to become a regular subscriber to this blog. It’s free, fun, practical, and only a few emails a week (I promise!). SIGN UP HERE to get the thoughtLEADERS blog conveniently delivered right to your inbox!