Executive Coaching Connections, LLC

When was the last time your team had a conversation about women in leadership? 

Women in leadership, and more specifically gender equality, remains a hot topic amongst global leaders, their teams and organizations. Search for “women in leadership” on Google and you’ll find more than 340 million results; about 33 million specific to “gender equality.” 

This is partly because of representation. Women remain significantly under-represented on corporate boards and in our C-suites. According to recent research by Catalyst, women hold 19.9% of the board seats and 4.6% of the CEO roles at S&P 500 companies. “At the current pace of progress, we are more than 100 years away from gender equality in the C-suite,” according to Sheryl Sandberg as described in the 2015 Wall Street Journal article and video describing LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace 2015 report. 

Things are very similar globally. According to Deloitte’s 2015 Women in the boardroom: A global perspective report, “The representation of women on corporate boards continues to increase, but the number of women leading boards still remains low globally. Overall, women now hold 12% of seats worldwide with only 4% chairing boards.” CEO representation is less than 5% globally, according to the International Labour Office (ILO). ILO also mentions, “More women than ever before are managers and business owners, but there is still a dearth of women at the top of the corporate ladder. And the larger the company or organization, the less likely the head will be a woman.” 

Conversation also continues because research suggests that improved gender equality helps drive positive financial outcomes. A 2015 report by McKinsey Global Institute found that global GDP could increase by $12 trillion by 2025 by advancing gender equality.

As recently discussed at Astellas’ 2016 Women in Action conference in Chicago, sometimes it’s the conversation itself that needs to change.

Here are three actions you can take to start changing the conversation with colleagues, your teams and your organization: 

  1. Ask thought-provoking questions. 
    Questions spark fresh thinking and help us see the world in a new way. One way to change the conversation is to ask key questions: What percentage of our C-suite roles do women hold? For what percentage of critical positions have we identified women successors? What percentage of senior high potential women has sponsors? What are we doing to increase this percentage?

  2. Build teams where women leaders thrive. 
    If one of your team’s goals is to attract the best talent, become known for creating teams where gender equality is a priority. Ensure high potential women have sponsors who support their development, and change the conversation by holding sponsors accountable for actively advocating on their protégés behalves. 

  3. Tell powerful stories. 
    Organizational culture is shaped by the stories we tell one another. How have you seen gender equality become a game-changer, either in your current organization or elsewhere? How do you connect with the issue? Whether through your own direct experiences or those of others (a colleague, a daughter, a sister or a partner), reflect on this connection and actively share it with others. 

Change starts with conversation – between leaders, within teams and across organizations. 

Are you ready to change the conversation? 

If you or your team could use some help advancing women leaders, ECC can help. Give us a call at +1.847.920.0190.

For more learning and leadership and insights, follow ECC on LinkedIn and Twitter.