Corporate initiatives intending to hire, retain and develop female talent have fallen short or not produced the desired outcomes so far and still too few women occupy top leadership positions.
We propose a new framework to help professional women take a different approach to how they interact in the workplace with colleagues, their own work, and themselves.
By assuming part of the responsibility in their career outcomes and holding themselves accountable for their progress, women build the route to their own success.
McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org paint a quite dire picture of leadership opportunities for women in the corporate world.
Carolina Perez Sanz joined Templar in 2017, bringing with her 20 years of diverse, international experience as a communications consultant. She is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, and French.
Carolina proposes challenging existing assumptions with radically different questions as a way to get more women into leadership positions.
The 2017 Women in the Workplace report shows that despite years of policies and programs dedicated to increasing women’s share of leadership roles, the number of women in executive positions is still low.
In companies where only 10% of leaders are women, 50% of the men and 30% of the women think women are well represented at the top.
The report also reveals that women hit the first hurdle in their career early: a woman is 18% less likely than her male counterpart to be promoted to the manager level.
At the same time, Diversity & Inclusion initiatives seem to create disarray in certain work environments. While some male employees consider that these policies lower the bar for women so as to increase their odds of employment, most women feel measured against higher standards than men.
Simply put, things are not working. We need to reframe how we think about women’s participation in the workforce and leadership because it seems clear that what got us here won’t take us to a more proportionate leadership share.
Now that institutional help – while appreciated – has proven insufficient, we need to ask new questions that lead us to different answers. Because we can’t expect to get different results from the same actions, we need to think about female talent development in a radically new way.
new ideas in female talent development
Radically new ideas arise when we challenge the existing assumptions with radically different questions.
CHALLENGING THE EXISTING ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT FEMALE LEADERSHIP
ASSUMPTION: THE SOLUTION WILL COME FROM THE TOP
One assumption is: “Organizations put special measures in place to protect women and help them thrive.” The first implication of this is that women need protection.
It also implies that women can’t “play the game” without a special type of help, which in turns suggests that women are somehow incapable and therefore the game and the playing field need to adapt to them.
We could challenge this assumption by positing the following disruptive hypothesis, “What if women took care of themselves and asked for help when they needed it?” This new thinking would imply that women don’t need protection because they can take care of themselves.
Women need help to the same extent that everyone else does because no one thrives on their own. However, it is not a “special type of help” that fits all women. It is the specific help each person needs in order to learn, grow and thrive.
Ultimately, this new thinking generates the understanding that women and men are equally capable of “playing the game” and both women and men need training in the areas they are less proficient in.
ASSUMPTION: GENDER STEREOTYPES ARE WRONG
One commonplace about gender stereotypes is that they reflect the wrong and unfair way in which society sees women. This assumption implies that society and the individuals that make it up need to change.
The following hypothesis could be used to invert the assumption: “What if each woman made sure she challenged the stereotypical perceptions of women by adjusting her own behaviour?”
If all women did so, stereotypes about how women do and should behave would lose their descriptive and injunctive power and individuals would stop holding them.
INDEPENDENCE and ACCOUNTABILITY
If you want to cross a street where there’s no red light and you just stand by the pedestrian crossing, your success depends solely on the goodwill and kindness of motorists. But if you look towards the traffic flow, raise your hand and step off the sidewalk, you’re signaling that you want to cross.
Of course, your success will also depend on the motorists’ willingness to stop, but your chances will increase because you’ve taken action. You have done everything within your power to grant yourself a safe crossing, even though you don’t have the power to stop the traffic.
It is true that women face barriers in the workplace that men don’t. However, no barrier is insurmountable if approached with the right tool and mindset.
The right tool is an independent and proactive mindset; striving to seek out the specific help one needs for the goal at hand. And, then, to hold oneself accountable for taking the necessary steps to achieve what one wants.
Because it makes no sense to rely on other people’s offering us something we didn’t even ask for, it’s time for women to look towards the traffic flow, raise our hands and start walking.
Don’t expect the traffic to stop if you don’t signal that you’re ready to walk.
Templar helps professional women reframe how they think about themselves and envision their careers for them to fulfill their potential. With the appropriate mindset, successful professionals can identify and overcome the internal barriers that are keeping them from emerging as truly potential leaders.