By Cate Luzio
We are seeing an evolution in the workplace that is unprecedented. There is an urgency to promote more women into senior leadership roles and the C-suite as well as a focus on the experience of female founders and women businesses owners. The big question is how do we support these advancement efforts while ensuring that all leaders receive the management support needed for success.
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We know that having women lead businesses positively impacts the bottom line but does having more women at the helm mean better workplaces for women? I would argue yes, because more diversity around the table helps companies thrive. Embracing different perspectives and diversity of thought is critical to any business. And although men continue to hold 95% of the top jobs at the largest U.S. companies, women are starting their own businesses at a rate of over 1,800 per day. We are also seeing an evolution in the corporate workplace with greater promotion of women into management and senior leadership roles. With this workforce transformation and increased representation at the top, a new guard of women leaders are coming under intense scrutiny.
However, regardless of the company, managers and leaders need to be prepared and developed in order to lead their organizations. Expectations are high in corporate as well as entrepreneurial environments. Identifying opportunities to further invest in our leaders is critical. We need to work harder to set them up for success early on.
A recent Bloomberg article highlighted that just having more women in charge doesn’t mean greater equality for all women. From Yahoo’s Ex-CEO Marissa Mayer to the recent fallout with Away co-founder and CEO, Steph Korey, women’s leadership and the impact on a company’s culture is under a magnifying glass. It also brings to light a broader management issue. Leadership sets the culture and that’s what employees, customers and the media are holding management accountable for. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, women CEOs are judged more harshly than men particularly for ethical failures. The study points out that “women incur greater penalties for ethical transgressions because of persistent gender stereotypes that tend to categorize women as having more communal traits than men, such as being more likeable, sensitive and supportive of others.” This higher level of scrutiny continues given there are fewer women in leadership roles.
Women and men are advancing into leadership roles at a younger age and as we look across the start-up landscape, some founders are building businesses without extensive experience managing teams or building businesses. There is also a demand for accelerated growth and scaling. This is bound to impact company cultures. Important skills are needed to manage teams and investing in employee development is fundamental.
Kristy Wallace, CEO of Ellevate believes “cultivating women leaders is a key element in making companies stronger and more successful.” Whether you are working in an established company or building one, giving women leaders equal opportunities to access mentorship and advisors can deliver huge returns for the company culture as well as the business. Role models and mentors can greatly impact career trajectories providing guidance, advice and necessary support.
For companies regardless of size, it’s important to invest in leadership development programs, career plans, and 360 feedback. It’s important to have organizational charts, managerial tracks and increased opportunities for sponsorship. Investors also need to recognize that they may be able to support founders with access to mentors and sponsor around the development of the leadership team not just the growth of the business.
For women who are feeling the pressure not to make management misstep – here are ways to better prepare for managing effective teams.
- For those that have not had the opportunity to manage or lead, we need to better prepare these leaders. Putting together a solid plan of development is critical.
- Ask for feedback and embrace constructive feedback on areas of growth. We all want to hear that we are doing great, but we need to push our managers and leaders to provide solid developmental feedback with key milestones throughout our careers.
- Remain open to self-improvement and find ways to upskill. Strive for promotions early and often but develop the managerial skills to be a recognized and strong leader. Focus on continuous learning both internally and externally.
- Prioritize company culture. How your employees feel will help define your management style.
Women should also seek external opportunities to invest in their own professional and personal development. Organizations like Ellevate, WE.NYC, NAWBO, ALICE and IWF have been created to support women in the workplace and their career journeys.
All leaders learn every day, especially entrepreneurs, myself included, and we aren’t perfect. It’s a commitment to continuous improvement and growth that makes us stronger. It helps when this is broadly recognized by everyone around you on your journey from your new hire to your manager, to your mentor or investor.
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