Women have come a long way from being considered fit for passive roles, which seemed convenient for them at some point in time, to today being preferred for assuming critical leadership positions at organisations. However, the statistics do not paint quite the rosy picture and should be a signal grave enough for organisations to start paying heed to the decreasing number of women in the corporate network.
A study on the Fortune 500 companies reveals that women CEOs make up for a meager 4.8% of the total!
Various bigshot corporations like Apple and Facebook have concentrated their efforts on women’s inclusion by introducing policies, like sponsoring costs for freezing female eggs for non-medical reasons, as a gesture to motivate the women workforce to advance in their careers without succumbing to societal pressures. Nevertheless, it takes more than just that to attract women and retain them for maintaining a consistently balanced gender-parity ratio. It is important to understand what women leaders bring to the table and how organisations can bank on those capabilities to propel growth.
Why Having Female Leaders is Beneficial for the Organisation?
Data from several studies not only points out that women are better leaders than men but also prove that the organisations led by women record more profitable results than the ones headed by their male counterparts.
Yet, there exists a troubling bias reflected in the overall underrepresentation of women in the corporate world. In fact, only 29% of senior management roles are held by women. However, to put things into perspective, let’s first zero down on how poised women are as leaders and which attributes render them beneficial for an organisation.
It is a no-brainer that diversity is the cause for a better, more diverse mix of people hailing from different races, religions, thought-patterns, etc. A similar group of people will never harbor an exciting or vibrant workplace. On the other hand, having more viewpoints and perspectives in place results in better decision making. Having more or a fair share of women onboard points towards a thriving workplace where better decisions are made.
Women, by their innate nature, are more empathetic, better listeners, nurturers, and strong communicators. While all these qualities embody a great leader, they are equally essential must-haves to become a great mentor. Making women an integral part of an organisation’s mentorship programs will not only garner great results among the young minds, i.e. the mentees but also encourage women to practice leadership roles more mindfully.
In the times of transparent workplaces, the need for trustworthy leaders cannot be more emphasized. Trust and ethics are two values that employees prioritize in the top management, and studies suggest that women are better trusted in general than men.
By being highly emotionally intelligent individuals, who are generally known to handle crises at home and someone who can keep their egos aside to look at the bigger scheme of things, women prove to be the trusted assets of an organization.
The gender pay gap, which stands at a dismal 82% with women earning 82% of what men make, can also be removed by increasing the number of women leaders. In reality, there does not exist a gender gap. It is the gender opportunity gap which is the real crux of the problem.
Women are not given equal opportunities to advance in their careers and made to face challenges for getting promotions. If organisations were to focus their efforts on promoting more women into leader-centric roles, the gender pay gap could automatically reduce.
4 Ways to Attract and Retain Female Leaders
Let’s look into a well-devised strategy for organisations to help attract and retain strong women employees and groom them for leadership roles.
#1. Flexible Schedules
Flexible working style is no longer a trend but a globally accepted phenomenon that has become a norm for today’s workforce. If an organisation is keen to attract and retain great talent, especially women leaders, it’s a smart move to realign their rigid 9-to-6 schedules and rethink the same.
Offering flexibility goes beyond letting someone work from 10 to 6 instead of 9 to 6. Instead, it means allowing them to adjust their work schedules around the everyday surprises life keeps throwing at them, such as sick children, ailing parents, school plays, etc. Doing so will increase productivity as the employees will be happier at work.
It implies that the workplace displays empathy in their work policies and values performance more than the number of hours spent at the desk. Offering flexible schedules, especially to the women employees who are naturally more involved in caregiving tasks at home, will go a long way in attracting and retaining them in a company.
#2. Assess Company Culture
Formal policies, like flexible work conditions, diversity training, etc., work to a certain extent, but they are just a part of what’s required to encourage women to become leaders. The company culture as a whole and the views of even a single manager can be enough for a woman to pack up and leave for something better.
Some unconscious biases, which pose a grave threat to women’s advancement and development, may creep in everyday experiences and events. Therefore, an in-depth analysis of the company culture is required to remove even subtle biases or anti-inclusive attitudes that may not fare well with an organisation’s goal to help attract and retain women leaders.
#3. Truly Empower Them
Ensure that the female leaders have access to the correct experiences and resources needed to progress. These could include coaching, mentoring, on-the-job learning, workshops, etc. They should be made aware of the skills, perspectives, and capabilities that a leader should possess and, then, helped to get equipped with all of these.
Another area where the women leaders should be motivated to dive into is the power to choose for themselves the different career choices. As organisations, empower them to take valuable decisions related to their careers, such as creating a personal leadership development strategy.
Giving them full reins of their career graph will help them practice how to exert influence over their choices and make informed decisions, both of which are of utmost important as leaders.
#4. Genuine Transparency
An organisation is bound to go downhill if their employees feel anxious to voice any mishap in the office. Creating policies against sexual harassment and other such claims is no good if the HR department fails to address the issues on an actual basis.
Uber faced the heat in 2017 when sexual harassment claims against an executive went unheard by the HR team and eventually lead to the disapproval of the company’s HR policies in the market. Women leaders can flourish provided the organisations are committed to building a culture of trust and transparency which reflects in their day-to-day decisions, and not just their mission statements.
Some other policies which can help attract and retain women’s leadership are providing daycare services or crèche, a competitive maternity leave policy, provisions for equal pay, etc.
These strategies will not only build more women leaders for the future but also inform female talent at entry and mid-career levels that there exists a leadership opportunity for them going forward!