Tips on encouraging more women to progress in business are just as effective for encouraging more men to stay and climb the career ladder in your organisation as well. The aim is to create a culture where everyone can work in a way which makes them feel productive and engaged.
Identifying any unconscious bias and barriers to progression, and finding positive solutions, helps to build people friendly workplaces which support both genders to thrive. So how can this be broken down into proactive steps?
1. Show encouragement and give employees a voice
Despite having all the knowledge, intelligence, skills and expertise, some people are held back by their own self-doubt when it comes to climbing the career ladder. Often referred to as ‘Imposter syndrome’, research by McKinsey shows that more women than men are likely to experience this. If you spot the potential, attitude and enthusiasm you are looking for, then back that employee to do the job. Help develop their confidence and self-belief by looking for opportunities to get them involved in projects which are crucial to the business, empower them to take on broader responsibilities and open the way for them to proactively contribute in meetings and discussions. There’s a strong chance they will thrive and, in turn, your business will benefit.
2. Coaching and mentoring
Coaching and mentoring can help people to realise their full potential and to develop their own authentic leadership style. A study by Grant Thornton revealed that one of the most significant things in helping women to succeed in leadership was having a mentor or sponsor. Find opportunities to match up-and-coming talent with sponsors, mentors or coaches. This could be from within the organisation itself, or via external networking and business growth schemes. Another study by Cambridge University showed that there is also a benefit to pairing people of different genders together.
While many people seek a mentor or sponsor of the same gender because they perceive there will be more common ground, this research suggests that picking a mentor of the opposite gender will help people to appreciate what the workplace looks like from a different point of view. This not only encourages both parties to learn from each other’s strengths it opens opportunities for men and women to work together in tackling unconscious bias and barriers to progression.
3. Flexibility can make all the difference
It’s equally vital for both male and female employees to strike the delicate balance between work and home life to be able to effectively manage their career life cycle and to continue to excel. Flexible working practices can give families more choice about how they manage their households and help both parents to successfully progress their careers. For example, an increasing number of men are choosing to work flexibly, often leaving early to pick up children from school. That’s why flexible working is one of the most sought-after employee benefits and organisations which able to
offer it are more likely to be able to attract and retain the best talent. Flexibility can come in many
forms and bring additional business benefits. Extending business hours so employees can come in earlier, or leave later, can also benefit customers by increasing the time in which the organisation is contactable.
Toyota famously introduced a 6-hour working day in 2002 and has reported happier staff, reduced sick leave and higher profits. Flexible working may not be suitable for all businesses but the overall aim should still be on developing a company culture which is focussed on results and outcomes and not the amount of time spent in the office. Check that there isn’t any mistaken perception amongst employees that working extra hours will help to demonstrate how committed and valuable they are.
4. Monitor your talent pipeline
Start from the beginning when exploring the talent pipeline. Is there an equal balance of men and women joining the organisation in junior roles in the first place? At what point does the number of women start to decline? If you don’t know why people fail to climb the career ladder at your organisation you can’t make any changes. Are women being put off going for promotion because
director jobs are mainly occupied by men? Are junior employees aware of the career progression opportunities available to them? Take time to find out the reasons behind any trends discovered when investigating your talent pipeline, as they could be surprising. For example, a recent study by Ambition UK showed that while it was commonly assumed that women left the workplace due to family reasons, for most women (62%) a lack of perceived career progression opportunities was their main reason for leaving their current company.
5. Strong networks and more role models
Following the rise of notable female world leaders such as Theresa May and Angela Merkel, a third of women now say they feel more confident to speak their mind at work, according to a new study released by Crunch. If these high-profile, yet far removed from day-to-day life, leaders can have such an impact, imagine what increasing female leaders directly within an organisation, industry or local
business network will achieve? More women in leadership roles will create a strong network of women in business and actively inspire more women to progress.
Even a small business can have a large impact within their business community by helping to develop a female leader and actively encouraging them to extend their networks and connections. Through our Women’s Leadership Programme, we’ve developed a strong alumni network across the East of England of both male and female business leaders committed to creating inclusive work environments. Other businesses can look to create similar networks by working together to establish strong connections for their female employees and to share best practice on encouraging women in business.