At a recent networking event, I talked to a group of male bankers. They were saying: “We’d definitely like to see more women leadership in the higher echelons of our organization. But we can’t find enough women who want to move up to the top.”
Wow. This vividly contradicts what I hear from my female business friends in the Financial Services industry. But honestly, deep down I get where these men are coming from.
Women are still a tiny minority on boards and executive teams – despite numerous studies showing that companies with high gender diversity in top management perform better. These organizations benefit from superior team dynamics, accelerated innovation, more balanced leadership styles and risk-taking, and as a result, higher profits.
Supporting statistics around specific bottom-line parameters abound and are readily available online, e.g. a recent MSCI study says: “Companies that had strong female leadership generated a Return on Equity of 10.1 percent per year versus 7.4 percent for those without…”
Results-driven men know that it’s a good idea to open the doors of their boardrooms for women. Click To Tweet It is obvious that this is no longer only about diversity and inclusion (even if that in itself should be important enough.) Attracting and retaining high-caliber women leadership talent all the way up to the top leadership ranks comes with a long list of compelling results.
So what’s going on?
As Gloria Feldt, co-Founder of Take The Lead Women, an organization I collaborate with to drive gender parity in leadership, puts it in a recent interview with Fortune.com: “The challenge of twentieth century second-wave feminism was to change discriminatory laws, open doors and give women an opportunity to aim for whatever they wanted to accomplish in their lives. The challenge of the twenty-first century is for women to walk through those doors, because once you have opened them and once you have laws that make gender discrimination illegal, what’s next? Nobody’s going to step aside for you. You have to walk through those doors yourself, and that is the lesson that I believe women have yet to learn.”
Without doubt, creating more women-friendly laws and policies, from parental leave to equal pay, has been crucial, and we know that today there are enough young women who graduated with the intention to move up to the highest ranks. Competence is clearly not the problem in times where “more American women than men are college graduates,” according to a Vox Media article.
But somewhere along the way they convince themselves that this may actually not be what they want. So what causes this change of mind? Is it “corporate reality” with its implicit bias and double standards? Is it too hard to step through the invisible barriers of a business world that was largely created by men? Is it too complicated to combine a successful career as a leader and as a mom?
Yes, adverse circumstances exist and they are undeniable. It is certainly not my intention to belittle them in any way. But I and many other experts believe there’s another very important factor that’s slowing down female leadership: While many women say they want leadership positions and they may even openly declare this intention, their subconscious beliefs and thought patterns are not aligned with their goal.
Their subconscious programming somehow doesn’t play along: It wants to keep them smaller than they really are. They start doubting themselves and shy away from the challenge. They don’t apply for promotions. They avoid the spotlight or don’t know how to enhance their visibility, which would allow them to be seen as the experts they really are.
You would think this scenario should have changed quite a bit over time, but our current reality reflects that change has been slow. So why are many women still moving with a foot on the brake?
A lot of the “self-imposed” stop signs have their origin in our upbringing and as recent studies now finally prove, also in our genetic heritage, meaning that they are not really “self-imposed” after all.
On a conscious level, most women want success and many of us work very hard to achieve it. But 95 percent of our behavior is driven by our subconscious mind. So that’s where we need to go to achieve faster change. And that’s why I chose to offer The Powerful Leadership Transformation transformational coaching programs and workshops to corporate women. My system is built on four main pillars: a powerful mindset (conscious and subconscious), focused use of our uniqueness, body consciousness & presence, and action.
When I was introduced to Gloria Feldt last year, I realized that our work is highly compatible and complementary, and I readily accepted her offer to become a Certified Leadership Ambassador & Trainer for Take The Lead Women.
Take The Lead’s 9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career and Gender Bi-Lingual Communication workshops help women advance their careers by:
- Re-defining the concept of power in a way that appeals to women and makes them want a piece of it: from “Power Over” (others) to “Power To” (achieve your and your company’s goals)
- Providing them with actionable power tools that increase their visibility and impact within their organization
- Breaking down gender-based communication barriers
- Making leadership roles more attractive and more attainable for women
This allows everyone in their organization to focus on the task at hand of increasing women leadership rather than wasting precious energy on gender-related issues, which obviously is a much better use of a company’s resources.
It is therefore in the best interest of any company to fill its leadership pipeline with self-starting, innovative, high-performing women who don’t drop out on their way to the top. To a certain extent, a company’s success in this area depends on its recruiting practices. Admittedly, it can be challenging to attract qualified candidates for leadership positions, both female and male.
So here’s my suggestion: Stop looking outside and instead create them. You already have human resources that know how your business works; develop them. Identify the best candidates within your companies and make sure they receive the tools to empower themselves for the roles you are looking to fill.
The 9 Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career workshop, which can be customized to your organization’s specific needs, can help you do that.
It’s time to make a drastic move within your organization.It’s time to create powerful female leaders. Click To Tweet
Regina Huber is a Transformational Leadership Coach & Trainer, Speaker, CEO of Transform Your Performance (www.transformyourperformance.com); Diversity Advocate; Leadership Ambassador for Take The Lead Women.