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What Women Leaders Need Right Now in This Critical Time

July 29, 2020 Deana LaFauci
aerial shot of woman typing on laptop

We’re living in unprecedented times—and COVID-19 has majorly impacted the way we all live our lives every day. Women have been especially affected by this crisis, and they are experiencing burnout. In fact, new research from Lean In finds that women are experiencing physical symptoms of stress and burnout at up to twice the rate of men during the COVID-19 crisis.

The professional impact of this disruption to our lives is becoming clear, as women leaders share personal stories of challenge and loss. A recent United Nations study warned that COVID-19 risked reversing decades of progress concerning gender equality in the workforce.

The stress, burdens and expectations on women have never been higher, as they strive to balance professional obligations and new home life expectations, including dealing with the unknown of whether or not schools will reopen this fall, and preparing to once again homeschool their children, as many did this past spring. Above all, many women are focused on the safety, wellness and happiness of their families and loved ones—often to the detriment of their own careers.

How can women leaders reprioritize their own professional development at this critical time, while managing to meet the needs of those around them? Leadership development designed specifically for women is one way to achieve this. At Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute (WIL), specialized programming for women identifies the need to balance work with everything else as a key hurdle to advancement, and as an attainable goal with the right skills and perspective.

This fall, hundreds of women will come together virtually at WIL. The conference is more accessible—and vital—than ever.

Here are two reasons why:

1. Women leaders need insights from women who have been there.

How can women find the inspiration to lead their teams, families and communities at this critical time? By relying on the expert insight and advice from women leaders who have walked the same path and experienced the same hurdles to advancement.

Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute brings together some of the most inspiring women leaders in a diverse program filled with the freshest takes, latest insights and inspirational stories.

Hear from Glennon Doyle, a unique leader with a fresh perspective on life and leading. In her latest book, Untamed, which is a New York Times best seller, she describes the experience many women have: We overcommit, overproduce and overwork with the goal of serving others.

“We believe all this striving will make us feel alive,” she writes—and she’s right, but this striving comes at a cost. She inspires women leaders to break out of the cycle of supporting and move toward delegating, managing and empowering those around us to thrive. Glennon’s wife is soccer superstar Abby Wambach, who was a keynote speaker at the Women in Leadership Institute in 2019. Together, through their social media accounts, Abby and Glennon deliver sage advice on life, women’s leadership, and families.

Also joining Glennon on the mainstage? Soledad O’Brien, Emmy-winning reporter, host of the nationally syndicated political show Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien, and a champion at offering accessible insights from often-divisive issues. “Soledad has established herself as one of the most recognized names in broadcasting. She is exactly the type of role model we seek as Institute keynote speakers and faculty members,” said Jennifer McCollum, CEO of Linkage.

A champion of diversity, Soledad gives voice to the underserved and disenfranchised through her Emmy-winning reporting and acclaimed documentary series, Black in America and Latino in America. Her insights are critically important as we all strive to lead across difference and support our diverse teams.

2. Women are empowered by networking with other women leaders.

How can women take charge of their professional experiences and leadership journey when our world is more complex and demanding than ever before?

Our ability to cultivate and take advantage of our professional network can help us mitigate the professional impact of an unprecedented public health and economic crisis and allow us to access an emotional support system when we need it most.

Women are often seen as more “social” than men, but women actually network less than men. Linkage’s research on the advancement of women leaders points to typical hurdles to advancement within the workplace, and many of them are centered around a woman leader’s ability to promote herself and her work, and meaningfully network with her peers and those who are senior to her. When we put intentionality around networking, women leaders see a return on investment on the hard work of relationship-building. When taken on meaningfully and consistently, networking allows women to identify new career paths, expand business opportunities and partnerships, and broaden their expertise by seeking out the advice of others.

Networking can be directly connected to finding our next, bigger role, but many of the opportunities afforded to those who network successfully fall outside of a traditional career trajectory.

In the age of COVID-19, women who network with other women leaders, both inside and outside their industry, build the support network they need to survive and thrive in difficult times. A study conducted by the Kellogg School of Management found that women who network like men actually do the worst, because they are missing a close inner circle of women leaders. In short, they miss out on the women-specific insights that come from a network of peers.

Consider the outsized importance of networking for women who are also members of underrepresented groups within their organization or industry. They most likely experience a common, shared experience with women of similar backgrounds, but they lack the access to these women. How could the support, guidance and feedback from networking with these women transform their lives?

Over its 20+ year history, Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute has brought together thousands of women leaders in a true spirit of support and collaboration. They come together for four days of immersive learning and build bonds that last a lifetime. This year, the Institute is available virtually, and brand-new virtual networking opportunities give leaders the chance to put this pivotal career acceleration tool into action.

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Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute™ (WIL) is a four-day immersive learning experience, designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace. Can’t join us for the full conference? Take advantage of new Virtual Keynotes and Virtual Keynotes PLUS packages and get insights from Glennon Doyle, Soledad O’Brien and Carla Harris.

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