We as females have a vested interest in changing the ratio of women leaders in our country, whether it is in business or in government. And for women in leadership roles, they need to do their part. There is power in numbers, and the effect of having role models in numbers can’t be overestimated. Huffington Post Women published the results of research done on the West Bengal of India. In that region, there have been quotas in place for female politicians since 1993. The research found that in areas with long-serving female leaders, the gender gap in teen education goals disappeared. Parents and teens alike began setting more ambitious education goals for themselves and their daughters. Seeing women in charge changes perceptions by women and men alike. Ambitions and expectations change.
If you are in a position of power, you have a unique opportunity to help other women. Sallie Krawcheck, one of the top women on Wall Street and former head of wealth management at both Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, is putting her name and influence behind an investment vehicle that will direct assets to companies who put women in leadership positions.
Women often work behind the scenes. Because we naturally focus on what needs to be done, rather than being noticed, women often do not get the recognition they deserve. If you are in a position of power, it means people are already listening to you. Use that power to recognize the good work of other women, in front of everyone, especially men. When they realize how these talented women can help them achieve their goals, they will be motivated to recruit and promote them. And so the movement toward the creation of critical mass begins.
Let’s also use our power to keep up-and-coming female leaders in the workforce. I see many women opt out of the workplace at the point in their lives when they start families. I understand that it’s hard to have the time and energy to do it all. But when they leave the business world, we all lose. We lose the thought leadership of these smart, talented women and our companies are the worse for that.
These women who opt out of the workforce also lose, if not now, then later in life. How many times have you seen it? A friend or acquaintance who left the business world to raise a family ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago is now at a crossroads and doesn’t know what to do. Perhaps the kids have gone off to college or the marriage is at an end. The woman either wants or needs to rejoin the workforce. But it’s impossible for her to return to where she left off. In fact, she may not get back into her field at all. She is left without power and without a choice she wants.
All leaders in positions of power can change this. You should want to change this and feel a responsibility to do so. It is not easy. Your organization can create flexible schedules, job sharing, and other opportunities to support working parents. Help create a workplace that makes it more possible for women to maintain their careers and care for their families. Let’s keep our female talent growing and build the pipeline for women in leadership positions.
Figure out what’s worked for you in your own career and pass that knowledge onto another female. Reach out to a female peer who seems to be struggling or could be even better and more effective with a little advice. You don’t have to tell her exactly what to do. You only need to share your own personal stories.
Consider mentoring a new female graduate or a young female professional to increase her odds of growing up to be a successful leader. Somebody, man or woman, took a chance on you. Someone invested discretionary time in you. You need to do the same: Take a chance on, and invest in, someone else. As an experienced female leader, you have the unique perspective on what it will take for that young woman to be successful. Don’t keep it a secret. Share the knowledge that creates power and critical mass.
Be a catalyst. That knowledge is like a fine piece of jewelry that doesn’t do anyone any good hidden in the drawer. Get it out and share it with someone who will benefit from it.
Adapted from Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership – Copyright (c) 2016 by Melissa Greenwell.
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