Insights, News & Perspectives from Aspire Ascend

    Gender Equity: For Women's Rise To Leadership

    05/25/2016 3:02 PM | Jan Molino (Administrator)

    In the midst of our current hotly contested political races, everyone has an opinion on almost every issue. It’s rare when any of the politicians, or even most voters, agree on anything.  One of the few areas of agreement is the need for the United States to maintain a competitive edge in a growing international, and evermore interconnected marketplace. But, how do we do that and, ensuring the nation’s position as a global leader?

    To do that, we cannot afford to overlook any resource, including human resources. Yet we are doing just that when we exclude women, and their unique perspectives, from strategy development and policy-making C-suite participation.

    Women control over 80% of U.S. consumer spending yet make up only 14.6% of executive officers, 8.1% of top earners, and 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs. They hold just 16.9% of Fortune 500 board seats. 

    What steps must we take to correct this imbalance and put the strength of women’s thinking into corporate and policy decision making? 

    It begins with corporate practices and organizational cultures – currently more exclusionary than inclusive. Women’s advancement into the leadership ranks begins with today’s leaders, who must provide examples by organizational practices and their personal attitudes. It starts with a strong commitment by top management to gender diversity; including it as part of the strategic agenda, monitoring its progress across the corporate landscape and communicating its priority status throughout the enterprise.

    Programs and forums focusing on gender diversity should become part of the in-house training philosophy with the development of women leaders and the acceptance of women in the organizational hierarchy as twin objectives. One won’t work without the other…building awareness among men of the difficulties women face reaching the top is a critical tool in redirecting internal cultures.

    Organizations need to build conviction that what is good for women will be good for men, as well as for the entire enterprise. 

    That is done by raising men’s awareness – as well as women’s – to women-specific issues with the aim of changing practices that currently favor the recruitment and promotion of men, and positioning them at the head of the succession planning line.    

    Organizations can foster, encourage and reward new traditions of internal sponsorship where today’s leaders bring forward and support tomorrow’s leaders. In short, establish sponsorship programs. While mentors provide guidance and advice, sponsors are “career enablers” who enhance visibility among top leadership and actively push for women’s advancement. Sponsors actively drive advancement through concrete actions: opening doors, recommending women for promotions, and creating opportunities at the top.

    Human Resource and other policies and processes should be reviewed and systematically revised:

    • In conjunction with inclusiveness programs and sponsorship of women, corporations need to ensure that performance and leadership models are diverse and gender neutral as well as making sure gender specific hiring goals are established.
    • Flexible work arrangements must become compatible attributes of a top career, benefitting both men and women, with no negative effects on advancement.
    • Leaves of absence for parenting or other reasons should be encouraged for both women and men.
    • Organizations should welcome a broad range of leadership styles to ensure no talent is bypassed. 
    • Leadership diversity can be achieved through leadership programs, role models in top management, and most of all, receptive evaluation criteria.
    • Review of the evaluation criteria may be needed to ensure that they support a wide range of leadership style.  

    When we make the corporate ladder more accessible to women, we incorporate fresh thinking, new perspectives and a more inclusive strategic outlook into an organization’s culture. That is both a good thing and the right thing if we are to ensure the nation’s position as a global leader. 

    Jan Molino is the CEO & Managing Partner of Aspire Ascend, a service provider and member-based organization, that helps women advance toward leadership. She is an experienced speaker and facilitated numerous forums and panel discussions on this subject.  Jan can be reached at: jan@aspire-ascend.com.

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