Creating workplaces encouraging female leaders

| May 6, 2015

While businesses recognise the outstanding role women can play in the workplace some are finding it is easier said than done. Natalie Goldman gives practical advice on things you can do to ensure women take the next step and take on leadership opportunities.

There is a clear business case to encourage women into leadership roles in companies.

There are multitudes of reports that reinforce the business case however many Senior Leadership teams are not sure what can be done to encourage women in the workplace to climb the leadership ladder. Before we go into how, let’s take a look at the lay of the land.

When looking at the statistics about Gender Equality in the workplace, the figures are not looking great. The representation of women steadily declines when moving up the management levels, with women comprising only 26.1 per cent of key management personnel positions and 17.3 per cent of CEO positions.

Less than 1 in 10 organisations have set a target to left the number of women around the boardroom table despite only 23.7 per cent of directorships being held by women, and just 12 per cent of chairs being women*. And in relation to the gender pay gap is at 18.8 per cent which has remained relatively unchanged for decades.  That statistic is an average with some industries like Finance being as high as 40 per cent.**

Here are some things you can do to make a real, meaningful difference in your company to bring more women into leadership.

1. Identify Your Unconscious Bias

As human beings it is a natural process for us use our judgement to process information however unfortunately this process can work against women at work by unconsciously thinking that the role of women should be at home and not have leadership qualities.  By completing an unconscious bias assessment, debrief and training it will assist with the behavioural change that needs to take place.

2. Flexibility

By bringing flexibility into mainstream workplace (not just for women but men too) will encourage more women into leadership by acknowledging the broader responsibilities in life and giving the ability to manage it all.  It all challenges the idea that work is 9-5 as we know it is no longer like that due to technology and expectations of the workforce.  Furthermore it creates a highly engaged productive culture that values inclusiveness which is where your highly valued women will want to remain and give their all.

3.    Return to Work Program

By encouraging women to return to work after having a child ensures the continuity in a woman’s career.  Furthermore a robust return to work program would include not just coaching and support upon the return of the woman but also pre-maternity leave coaching on how to have the conversation with their leader on negotiating their maternity leave but importantly their return.  The key here is also training the leader on managing the whole process effectively as well.  Providing ongoing up-skilling and other opportunities to women on maternity leave not only increases the chance that they will return, but return highly engaged.  Furthermore provide a path for their development that reinforces their path to leadership.

4.    Champions

Train your leaders to understand what it means to be a champion, to be able to become a champion for women in your business.  The research shows that women do not self-promote well and benefit from the support and encouragement of senior male leaders in a business that can be their advocate particularly around promotions and other opportunities within the company.

5.    Development

Be sure to offer meaningful development opportunities from coaching and mentoring through to leadership programs.  Part of development goes beyond the learning, it is also about implementing so give women the opportunity via being 2IC in leadership roles, running team meetings, shadowing and project management – creativity is key here.  It is all about implementing key learnings.

If you do these things, and do them well you will be on the path to retaining your top female performers and providing them on a path to leadership.  It is not an easy path but one that needs to be taken.

* The Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s 2013-14 Report

** Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures


One Comment

  1. Catherine


    May 6, 2015 at 4:12 am

    An excellent summary of
    An excellent summary of practical ways to encourage female involvement in the workplace.