Industry Insights

5 Keys to Implementing Successful Women's Leadership Programs

Posted by Diana Montero on Dec 13, 2019 6:47:40 PM

Is your company currently implementing initiatives to achieve gender parity? What do you think is stopping your organization from accelerating female talent? In this article, we will cover 5 key elements that can help drive the success of women’s leadership initiatives.

Women Leadership

In recent years, organizations have emphasized, not just the importance, but the necessity of achieving gender parity in leadership and executive roles. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, a Mckinsey study showed that organizations with women holding at least 30% of leadership roles were 40% more likely to have sustained, profitable growth.

After a couple of years running a women’s leadership program for a leading biopharma company, I would like to share key learnings along with real industry examples to help you and your teams run a winning initiative.

1 - Set Targets, Use Reporting, and Accountability

Establishing goals, tracking progress, sharing results, and rewarding success demonstrate a true commitment. Encourage your teams to create reports, monitor changes and measure impact on their own business unit.

Example from Next Roll

NextRoll is one of the 329 companies participating in the study, Women in the Workplace. Every year, during the company meeting, they present and discuss results from the study and set concrete diversity targets for the following period. This includes executive members setting goals and measuring progress every quarter.

Results: In the past 3 years, women’s representation in senior management roles has increased from 27% to 40%.

2 - Get Buy-in from the Top

It is crucial to engage all your stakeholders, especially top leaders making decisions in the company, but how do you do it? You need to build your case, create a plan, and potentially a training,  with clear outcomes that show how the entire organization can benefit from having more women leading the business.

Example from Nordstrom

Three years ago, most employees at Nordstrom were women while the leadership team was made up mostly of men. These leaders went through a “conscious inclusion” program to understand the situation and the urgency of achieving gender balance.

Results: The share of women in the C-Suite rose from 7% to 40%, in SVP roles from 49% to 63%, and on the board from 17% to 46%.

3 - Fix The Broken Rung

In previous occasions and during my first webinar,  Boosting Women in Leadership, I talked about the glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching the top, but this is not the only barrier that female talent face.

According to the Women in the Workplace report published in 2019, "Women are often hired and promoted based on past accomplishments, while men may be hired and promoted based on future potential." This becomes a huge obstacle for women to be hired at the entry-level, and to be promoted to management positions because of their lack of similar experience. To overcome this situation, companies will need to set specific targets, create the appropriate training, and put more women in line for first-level management positions.

Example from MetLife

MetLife realized that they needed to increase the number of female leaders in their own pipeline. The company launched a 14-month program for high-potential women to develop key leadership skills such as business acumen and strategy. In addition, the company created the Lean in Circles for monthly support and mentorship.

Results: After 4 years of implementing the solution, MetLife is proud to say that more than half of its managers and entry-level employees are now women.

4 - Create Clear Opportunities for Progression at All Levels

Ensure that hiring and promotions are fair and more transparent. Establish clear evaluation criteria, and reward senior leaders for identifying high-potential women and help them advance.

Example from Sodexo

Sodexo identified a deficit of women in their leadership pipeline due to an important drop after entry-level.

Stage1: The company launched the Mentoring Circles program where entry-level women and mid-level managers met monthly over a year as part of their 1-to-1 mentoring program.

Stage 2: Sodexo created a scorecard to hold managers accountable for their efforts on diversity and inclusion. Every year 10% of the manager’s bonus is tied to the points earned by hiring, promoting, and retaining more women. The organization monitors outcomes and refine the scorecards overtime.

Results: In 5 years, women’s representation has increased by 10% on average at entry and manager level, over 20% at SVP level, and has doubled in the C-Suite.

5 - Foster an inclusive and respectful culture

Make senior leaders and managers champions of diversity, especially if your company follows a top-down approach. Include executive sponsors, direct managers, the gender balance board as well as entry-level professionals. Put evaluators through unconscious bias training, promote candid conversations, and make sure all voices are heard.

Example from SunTrust

In 2018, the CEO of SunTrust implemented the Day of Understanding to promote a more open dialogue at the company. This initiative aimed at helping employees embrace differences, build awareness of unconscious bias, and encourage inclusivity. After a very positive response from employees, the organization has held more than 30 similar workshops, and spontaneous networks have come to life to share experiences and insights.

Results: In 2019, 80% of employees consider that the company’s environment is inclusive. 

A Successful Strategy for Women's leadership in 2021

Organizations need more women being hired, promoted and retained. The Women in the Workplace research shows that there is potential and that there are many women leaders ready to take on winning positions, but they need support, more visibility, and the right work environment.

Women’s Leadership programs are a great way to ensure women have the right skills to undertake more senior roles. However, these programs are not just for the participants who are actually taking the learning journey. This initiative type and the 5 above-mentioned key elements also strengthen the necessary support the organization has to provide to its talent pool and leaders . They also reflect the commitment to achieve gender parity and a diverse and inclusive work environment.

If you would like to find out more about how StratX ExL is helping clients to develop female talent and achieve gender parity in leadership positions, check out our Women in Leadership Free Webinar or get in touch with one of expert consultants today.

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Also, consider downloading our new Leadership development trends whitepaper which includes the top 6 L&D Trends for 2021

Leadership Development Trends Whitepaper

Topics: Women Leadership

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