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The state of female leadership and how to empower women in management

Symphony TalentMarch 8, 2022Career DevelopmentRetention

There's no denying we work better as a society when everyone comes to the table with diverse ideas, diverse backgrounds, and varying ways of problem-solving and solution-seeking.

As companies keep diversity, equity and inclusion top of mind, they must prioritize recruiting and retaining female leadership. It's integral to create a friendly workplace for and supportive of women.

The sad state of female leadership

Unfortunately, these efforts are too often applied informally. In reality, cultural and performance benefits come from implementing a more structured, supportive system that recognizes and celebrates complex ideas, experiences, colors, perspectives, and backgrounds. There's a fringe benefit to that by embracing the contributions of women in the workplace, you're better positioned to understand and assist partners and customers in an authentic, meaningful way.

The truth is, that's not happening the way it should in real life, and we have a long way to go. SHRM notes that although women are more likely than men to obtain a college degree and score higher overall in tests of leadership skills, they continue to face barriers to securing leadership positions.

A recent SHRM survey of HR professionals, individual contributors and managers found that female managers are more likely to aspire to higher-level roles, knowing they'd succeed in them or find themselves ready to take on additional or different workplace responsibilities. But it's time for another reality check since just 9% of HR professionals say their organization's leaders are predominantly female, and 50% of them note their senior leadership is primarily male.

Adding insult to injury, SHRM's Women in Leadership: Unequal Access on the Journey to the Top report, 2022, found it's lonesome for women at the top. While 73% of white male managers and 68% of male managers of color feel included in critical workplace networks, just 65% of female managers say the same a number that drops to 57% among women of color.

When discussing their personal lives with colleagues without feeling judged, just 70% of white female managers and 56% of female managers of color are comfortable sharing. Compared to 79% of white male managers and 72% of male leaders of color.

If you're going to bring women back to work post-pandemic much less elevate them in your organization, those realities have to change.

Ways to attract and empower female leadership

It isn't enough to say you want more female leadership action is required.

Not sure where to start?

  • Create a level playing field for internal job openings. Just78% of female managers compared to 86% of male managers note that employees in their organization were made aware of those opportunities. Ensuring employees are aware of and pathway to advancement is vital.
  • To further promote and increase equity, organizations also need to foster a work culture where women are encouraged to take on leadership roles through mentorship, professional development, and professional networking opportunities made available to employees company-wide.
  • At the same time, organizations should provide unbiased training and professional development courses to those charged with selecting potential candidates. Of course, those efforts need to be supported by a sound DE&I strategy that aligns with the organization's mission, values, and vision. To track successes and areas that need improvement goals and metrics for gender representation goals across the employee hierarchy, both short- and long-term.
  • Then, you need to be on the pulse of what's happening on the ground because numbers and percentages are just that. To honestly know you have an engaged and happy workforce and to ensure women are feeling supported within your organization you need to measure the employee experience. Do employees feel engaged and connected? Do they feel a sense of belonging?

What gets measured is more likely to be accomplished, and the time for women is well past due.

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