Bye Bye, Bias: How to Better Your Company's Bonds with Women Leaders

Lex Schroeder, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at Take The Lead Women, says leadership ambassadors help more women embrace their power in organizations.Let’s be honest, our collective relationship with women sucks.In a work setting, organizations by and large want to do the right thing by women, but often struggle with two things: a) everybody’s relationship to women and b) a woman’s relationship to herself.I say “relationship,” not “organizational dynamics” because we all have the power to change, and organizations are run by people, not dynamics. These aren’t mysterious phenomena out of our control. Without intervention, poor relationships turn into business problems fast because they affect everything about how we all do our jobs. As women leaders, decide to do nothing about your organization’s relationship with women, and you hamstring every aspect of your organization’s current strategy.That’s why Take The Lead, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, is excited to announce our new team of Leadership Ambassadors who are helping get organizations to gender parity in leadership. (View photos here from our Leadership Ambassadors Showcase & Mixer in March at The Moderns in NYC in case you missed it).I explained that night to executives, training directors, women leaders and other Take The Lead supporters that the choice we make is whether or not to intentionally create organizations that don’t just overcome gender bias, but that thrive as a result of diversity and difference of all kinds and specifically gender balance.The research is clear, having women in leadership and decision-making roles improves everything: your team’s collective intelligence, overall business performance, creativity and innovation, workplace flexibility and parental leave policies, you name it. Yet women leaders remain under 25 percent of top leadership positions across all sectors (see the latest data from AAUW here).As Take The Lead President Gloria Feldt found in writing No Excuses, as a result of living with day-in, day-out gender bias, as women we also hold ourselves back from stepping up into leadership positions or simply taking the lead on work that needs to get done. We all struggle to accept women in power and authority, and women struggle to embrace and respect our own power and authority.Soraya Chemaly reminds us that both men and women give women’s ideas less weight, hear women differently, and believe women talk more than men when they actually talk less. That’s an unhealthy relationship.How does an organization even address such problems? At Take The Lead, we do it with a comprehensive program that starts with a training that uniquely redefines power and changes the power paradigm so that women leaders embrace their power with confidence, authenticity, intention, and yes, joy.Why power?When misused, it’s the thing that causes bias and oppression in the first place. Take The Lead’s research-based Leadership Power Tools training makes way for women (and any other marginalized group) to lead. It moves beyond the condescending stance of “empowering” women by teaching everyone about gender bias and then respecting and helping women use what they’ve already got in a way that drives forward gender equity in practice.(Listen to Felicia Davis and Jaclyn Libowitz talk about the program and why they chose to become Take The Lead Leadership Ambassadors with Dr. Nancy O’Reilly here).Like other programs that reconnect women with their unique voice and value such as The Op-Ed Project, Take The Lead’s program helps women at all levels shine a light on what is already there in terms of skills and resources, then refines and amplifies leadership skills. In short, it tends to relationship.Participants create their own Strategic Leadership Action Plans that advance both individual goals and organizational goals. This helps everyone get aligned on what really matters, improving performance. We’ve found that at companies we’ve worked with like Pearson, Intel, and Time Warner, 70 percent of participants report implementing these Strategic Leadership Action Plans within a month. Ninety percent of participants implement them within 90 days. Women who attend Take The Lead trainings go on not only to advocate for themselves, they take bigger shots and smart risks, and bring their full creativity to their job. Again and again, we hear people say this training helps them take ownership of their careers.This is how you “retain talent” – by truly supporting the people you’ve already got since they drive your organization forward.I’m passionate about valuing the contributions of women (aka people) through better relationship building because it’s so clear relationships are everything. We live by this principle every day. In the absence of positive relationships, individuals and companies get stuck. The time is right to disrupt that pattern.Watch the Take The Lead Leadership Ambassador training video here.Meet Take The Lead’s team of incredible Leadership Ambassadors, contact us, and do something today to show how your organization values women.