The benefits of women in leadership positions have been well-documented, yet only 10% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. This is a clear indication that there is still a long way to go when it comes to promoting gender equality in leadership spaces. Fortunately, there are several evidence-backed strategies for helping close the gender gap.
In this article, I will explore the four key actions that can help more women advance into leadership: identifying potential leaders early, establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs, supporting women in joining women-led professional organizations, and focusing on allyship.
The Evidence-Backed Valued of Women Leaders
Decades of psychological research show that women leaders help increase productivity, enhance collaboration, inspire organizational dedication, and improve fairness.
Despite these benefits, only 10% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. This is a clear indication that there is still a long way to go when it comes to promoting gender equality in leadership spaces. However, industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologists offer a host of evidence-backed strategies for helping close the gender gap. These include earlier identification of leadership potential, training for men and others already in power to serve as allies, and formal mentoring and sponsorship programs.
Identify Potential Leaders Early
One promising approach is the earlier identification of leadership potential. This includes enabling potential leadership candidates to obtain a wealth of feedback at an early point in their careers, through assignments, mentoring, and coaching, all of which may allow them to develop their networks and demonstrate their ability to take on greater responsibilities.
To identify potential leaders early, organizations can implement a variety of strategies such as:
Implementing a 360-degree feedback process: This process allows employees to receive feedback from multiple sources, including peers, subordinates, and supervisors. This feedback can be used to identify individuals who demonstrate leadership potential.
Offering leadership development programs: By offering leadership development programs, organizations can identify employees who have a strong desire to lead and demonstrate potential for leadership roles.
Providing opportunities for stretch assignments: Assigning employees to challenging projects outside of their comfort zones can help to identify those who have leadership potential.
Establish Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs
Another effective strategy is the establishment of mentorship programs that also focus on sponsorship. A host of studies tout the benefits of successful mentoring programs, including greater career success for individuals and higher levels of employee engagement, retention, and knowledge-sharing for organizations.
To establish mentorship and sponsorship programs, organizations can take the following steps:
Identify potential mentors and sponsors: Look for individuals who have demonstrated leadership skills and are willing to dedicate time to mentoring and sponsoring others.
Provide training: Offer training to mentors and sponsors on how to effectively provide guidance and support to their mentees and protégés.
Establish goals and objectives: Establish clear goals and objectives for the mentorship and sponsorship program to ensure that mentees and protégés are receiving the support they need to advance their careers.
Supporting Women in Joining Women-Led Professional Organizations
Organizations can also encourage women to join women-led professional organizations. Women boost their leadership capabilities through joining women’s professional organizations. They allow members to hone their leadership abilities, network with other women, work directly with and observe women leaders, and receive support from others to take on leadership roles.
To support women in joining women-led professional organizations, organizations can:
Identify women-led professional organizations: Research and identify professional organizations that are led by women and align with the industry or field of the organization.
Provide financial support: Offer financial support to women employees who are interested in joining women-led professional organizations.
Encourage participation: Encourage women employees to participate in the activities and events of women-led professional organizations to develop their leadership skills and build a network.
Focus On Allyship
It is also important for male executives to be trained on how to be allies. Male executives who are trained on how to be allies are far more likely to speak up about incidents of gender inequality than men who are not trained in this approach. Allies use their privilege and in-group status to support and advocate for those from a different, historically disadvantaged identity group.
To focus on allyship, organizations can take the following steps:
Establish a training program: Offer training to employees on how to be an effective ally to those from historically disadvantaged identity groups.
Encourage allyship at all levels: Encourage employees at all levels to be allies and speak up about incidents of gender inequality.
Recognize and reward allyship: Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate allyship and advocate for gender equality in the workplace.
Promoting gender equality in leadership positions is essential for organizational success and growth. By implementing evidence-backed strategies such as identifying potential leaders early, establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs, supporting women in joining women-led professional organizations, and focusing on allyship, organizations can create more opportunities for women in leadership roles. Everyone will benefit from the improved productivity, collaboration, dedication, and fairness that women leaders bring to the table. It is time for organizations to take action and pave the way for more women to lead.