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How can we move the needle for women in the workplace? | Insights from today’s board meeting

May 21, 2019 Deana LaFauci

Today is one of my favorite days of the year! We welcomed members of Linkage’s Advancing Women Leaders Board to Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California for our annual meeting.

Here’s what makes this amazing group so inspiring to me: They are each passionate champions for the advancement of women leaders at their organizations, and they do valuable work every day to live out their commitment to gender parity.

We kicked off the meeting with an important question for the leaders in attendance: What opportunities will move the dial for women within your organization?

As Jennifer McCollum, CEO of Linkage, shared with us, it’s not enough to focus on individually developing women leaders. We must turn insights into action–and look at the bigger picture.

In fact, Linkage research led by Dr. Jill Ihsanullah, Chief Experience Officer, shows that women leaders perform better, stay at their companies longer, and advance in their careers when organizations address four strategic dimensions: culture, talent systems, professional development for women, and executive action.

Leaders from Oracle, FedEx Ground, The Walt Disney Company, US Bank, and Kaiser Permanente (among others), shared their thoughts on key opportunities to advance women leaders at their organizations. Here are a a few of their insights, too good not to share:

Offer On & Off Ramp Programs: Empower women to go on (and off!) their chosen career path to allow for real life obligations and goals.

Think Differently: When organizations go through significant change, use it as an opportunity to shift intentionality around diversity and inclusion space.

Proactively Address Talent Succession: Don’t ask: “Do you think she’s interested in this opportunity?” Instead, actively identify women you feel fit the role and then sponsor them for the opportunity.

Time is Precious: If you can only take on two initiatives to advance women leaders, which initiatives will have the largest possible impact?

Increase Transparency: Organizations should strive to be more transparent about their numbers so that leadership can understand the inequities that exist.

Focus on Pipeline & Recruiting: Build the strongest possible pipeline of women leaders who are ready to take on the roles and responsibilities of higher leadership. This also applies to departments that are traditionally male-dominated.

Differentially Invest in the Development of Women Leaders: Identify high performers and differentially invest in their development through in-person learning experiences, including Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute.

Sponsorship, Not Mentorship: How can male executives move the needle by making their own positive impact through sponsorship? We must target the highest levels of the organization to take on sponsorship initiatives. Linkage research shows that women are 14% more likely to believe they will be promoted when executives at their organization formally sponsor women leaders, and highly effective women are 7x more likely to be found in organizations where executives creatively work to retain key female talent.

Determine what it means to be an ally: What is the role of a white male to be a voice for people who are different from themselves? Make it explicitly clear.

Leverage Existing Systems: Many organizations have existing competencies that naturally overlap with diversity and inclusion commitments, so leverage them!

Work Smarter: Create diversity scorecards that apply differently to each department. For example, the hiring or promotion of women doesn’t count as advancement in a department or organization that is primarily made up of women. 

Increase Executive Involvement: Senior leadership needs to be at the table when we talk about diversity and inclusion–let them hear the insights first hand, giving them the opportunity to become champions of this work.

How are you working to advance women leaders in your organization? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Dark haired woman watches from audience of conference event

Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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Advancing Women Leaders

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