5 Challenges for Women in Leadership Roles 

A more diverse workforce, including more women in leadership roles, is linked to more innovation and financial performance. Although the workplace landscape has diversified it is still no easy road for the women who are stepping up to leadership roles.

Studies show that having women in leadership roles can help organisations forge a deeper connection with their customers, inspire other women employees, and boost employee engagement. Increasing diversity is also a significant benefit during skills shortages as organisations have access to a broader talent pool.

Indeed, gender equality and the effective participation of women are both important for effective action in all aspects of sustainable development and the economy. Thus, the persistence of a gender gap in corporate leadership positions is a major socio-economic challenge, and the underutilisation of the talent and skills of highly qualified women is a hurdle to development. Thus, initiatives that close this gap are tools to achieve sustainable development.

Leadership role models and facts

Women executives not only prove to be driven, resilient, and self-motivated, but they also drive impressive business results. Research shows that companies with more female executives are correlated with bigger share price gains, stronger revenue growth, and higher profits. For example, Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of Youtube, is one of the world’s highest-performing female CEOs. Wojcicki was Google’s 16th employee and marketing manager before she proposed Google’s purchase of YouTube and spearheaded its acquisition for US$1.65 billion in 2006. Wojcicki’s insight and strategic direction were integral in Youtube’s beginnings and continue to support the success of one of the largest search platforms in existence.

We have 34.2% of directors in the ASX 200 who are women, as of 30 November 2021. Women comprised 41.8% of new appointments to ASX 200 boards as of 30 November 2021. These are promising figures, and they can only improve in the future. But women in leadership are still facing challenges and we have identified a number of challenges that women will face when entering into and continuing leadership roles:

1. Women are held to higher standards than men

Research suggests that women are being held to higher standards within the workplace and that they need to do more to demonstrate their abilities. This can play on a weakness that women have which is a reluctance to self-promote.

2. Fighting against gender stereotypes

The idea that it is men that do business and it is women that do all caring can be something that is stifling the exceptions to the rule. It’s a case of women stepping up to the plate without fear, and being courageous.

3. Playing the game

Building alliances, sourcing votes and preparing to position beforehand may be seen as ‘what men do’. But this is how the game is played and there is no rule saying women can do the same thing to get ahead.

4. Managing many roles

The face of the corporate workplace has changed, and with women still having to take more time off than men in regard to raising a family, it should not be seen as a problem. Women are still able to keep their networks going even when being out of the office as the pandemic has shown everyone.

5. Taking risks

It’s a case of focusing on the outcome as opposed to the risk.

Steps for change

Even though these challenges may be the tip of the iceberg for women entering into leadership roles there are also the challenges of the role itself. It is important for these future and current women leaders to equip themselves with the tools to develop critical skills for leadership and influence.

There is now a significant amount of evidence demonstrating the positive impact increasing the proportion of women in leadership positions has on Australian company performance. Similarly, a recent global survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries found a positive correlation between profitability and the proportion of women in corporate leadership for both the board of directors and the executive team. Research confirms causality, including for profitable firms, where moving from no female leaders to 30% was associated with a 15% increase in the net revenue margin. The positive impact on company performance was greatest for female executives, followed by female board members, highlighting the importance of removing barriers to enable a pipeline of female managers to advance to senior leadership.

And it’s not just about filling these positions, for now, it’s also a case of creating a network of female mentors for the future generation of leaders coming up. Women role models are uniquely important—among those who have had mentors that supported them in the workplace, majorities of men and women alike say their mentor was the same gender as them, suggesting the need for, and potential influence of, more women in top positions. Specifically, among women who had mentors in the workplace, nearly two-thirds (63%) say that their mentor was another woman, rising to 72% among millennial women who have had mentors, while just 37% had male mentors. That flips among men, with more than three-quarters (77%) having had male mentors (vs. 23% female mentors).

The team at Executive Central has created a program for women wanting to deepen their leadership knowledge, reflecting on key critical moments that will help them in challenging situations like those described above. Planning and taking action are critical to achieving career success. We examine critical elements of career success, including branding, networks and strategies. Participants create a career map and take away an action-oriented plan. Participants also take away the inspiration and motivation to be the best that they can be, and reach for what they want.

The Women Leading Program is a targeted leadership initiative to support individuals and organisations to increase female representation in the succession pipeline. The program actively builds a network of women leaders who support, coach and mentor each other. This is a practical and proven way of increasing female representation in senior leadership roles. We look at participants’ own leadership journey, the strengths they have worked with, and their “resilience moments”. Participants will walk away with a powerful leadership brand story, elevator pitch and clear statements of what they Can, Will and Do as leaders.

We encourage learning partners to challenge, support, and empower each other by connecting throughout the program to share similar life and career experiences as we journey through the program. Learning partner coaching is a pivotal component of the Women Leading Program experience. As Women Leading participants grow their public service careers they continue to rely on and support their fellow participants and foster a pipeline of female future leadership.

Executive Central’s Women in leadership workshops are backed up by our senior executive coaches’ one-on-one coaching. This workplace group will provide an environment for content collaboration that will challenge participants to do their best.

Australia is one of only three countries in the world to ‘break the glass ceiling’ and exceed 30 per cent of women on top-listed company boards without legislated quotas, according to University of Queensland research. With such promising figures for women entering into leadership roles, it is the programs developed by the Executive Centrals team programs that will help to foster long-lasting relationships and a powerful network. The Executive Centrals Women in the leadership program will provide participants with a positive impact they will be able to keep growing through their professional careers.

Executive Central’s answer to the challenge

1. Women are held to higher standards than men

Utilizing the Gallup Strength finder 2.0 inventory, each participant identifies, owns and uses their unique Strengths. We explore how they are currently using their strengths, and how a strengths-based approach will enhance future practice. We discuss implications for teams, performance management and team dynamics. Participants gain a clear understanding of the Strengths model, their own Strength Report, and a plan for implementation.

2. Fighting against gender stereotype

Leadership in today’s complex, ambiguous and ever-changing context requires trust. Research tells us that the most effective leaders, authentic leaders, have a solid foundation of values and purpose that elicits this trust. These are leaders who know who they are and what they stand for. In this highly interactive and thoughtful workshop, participants consider themselves through a variety of lenses to hone their authentic and resilient leadership selves.

3. Playing the game

Women negotiate only about 25% as often as men do, and about 20% of all women never negotiate at all. This has wide-ranging implications for women leaders and diversity more broadly, including slower progress on issues such as flexible working, the gender pay gap and much more. We spotlight what a negotiation is and drill down on strategies for success. This includes how to recognise a negotiation opportunity and a reset attitude to negotiating. We learn and practice the stages of negotiation, and explore issues such as conflict management and failure to agree. Participants are emboldened to find wins/wins in their every day as well as the big moments different, more positive outcomes result.

4. Managing many roles

Networking is a career necessity. A mountain of research shows that professional networks lead to more job and business opportunities, broader and deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, faster advancement, and greater status and authority. Relationships are key to success in any industry. Your network gives you the power and is one of your most important competitive advantages. We introduce proven strategies to help build your networking plan and confidence as a networker. We share ideas and inspiration to make networking a meaningful and integral part of professional life.

5. Taking risks

We look at our ease, authenticity and power in connecting with others. Executive presence is the external manifestation of deeper inner conviction, confidence, insight and the ability to handle unexpected situations. We enable and challenge participants to be their uniquely powerful selves.

The Women Leading Program is a highly engaging experience that positively impacts each individual and builds lasting networks and relationships. The program will help you take the next step in your career, have a greater sense of purpose within your current or future role, become a more confident and effective leader or simply want to learn how to better balance your career, life and leadership.

To find out more about our women leading programs email [email protected] or call 1300 737 495 or find out more about our next online program here https://executivecentral.com.au/online-programs/women-leading/ 

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