How to empower the organization as a whole | WOTW Women Leaders

Calling all CEO’s - Your Failing Women Leader Programs Can Only Be Fixed With A Systems Approach

You're investing millions of dollars in Women Leadership Programs and you're proudly reciting how many Women Leaders are going through these programs, yet these investments are not getting you the desired results. Maybe you’re not sure why. Maybe you’re blaming it on the women in your organization. You might even stop believing in the gender equity agenda. 

The problem is that by believing that you’re doing all you can, you're actually working against your own gender equity and inclusion strategies and investments. 

The cold hard facts are: If we keep doing the same thing and keep believing this is about fixing the women  we will never make the progress we need to make. 

The World Economic Forum says it’s going to take 108 years to close the gender gap at the current rate. I don’t know about you, but that’s unacceptable to me. That’s why I’ve devoted my life to addressing this issue and putting this system issue on the table for CEO’s.

We cannot make strides to close the gender gap one woman at a time. Real change can only come at a systematic level and it can only happen if the CEO believes in it and owns this agenda. This can’t be delegated to HR and it can’t be delegated to the head of DEI. It needs to be owned by the CEO.

What do I mean by a systems issue? Corporate systems are broken and it’s only when we identify, name and work to update those systems that real change happens. Only once those systems are changed can we start to close the gender gap.

Here are the first steps you can take as a CEO to approach the gender gap at a systemic level: 

First, stop focusing on ‘fixing the women’ and focus on your broken systems. Most organizations have Women Leader Programs that are targeted at fixing the women, not the system. Sorry guys, this approach is not going to work. 

How do I know this? I’ve worked with hundreds of companies, from Fortune 100 to start-ups. I’ve seen the mistakes companies make when they attempt to fix the women. They introduce Women Leader Programs that don’t move the needle, yet it doesn’t change anything. Don’t believe me? Just ask your Women Leaders.

You can’t fix something that’s broken if you focus elsewhere. It’s like loaning out a car with faulty brakes yet blaming the driver every time the car crashes. 

That’s what companies are doing. They’re giving Women Leaders training programs and then asking them to return to a broken system within the organization. Companies have to fix their brakes. It’s no wonder women are burned out and ready to leave the workforce in droves.

Second, identify where the system is broken. We’ve identified the 14 levers that when working correctly will move the needle on your Women Leader programs. Fixing these levers will empower your Women Leaders and help you reach your goals.

Here at WOTW we have developed a proprietary method of identifying your systems issues. While the entire  14 levers are our secret sauce, we’re willing to share 6 of them with you .

Here are 6 of the systematic levers that are holding back your Women Leader programs:

  1. Pride of ownership in your ERG or Women Network programs is stalling your progress: We get it. People love their own programs. But if the program isn’t working, you need to innovate and fix it. WOTW uncovers where ownership is stalling and we help you fix that issue. 
  2. Over mentoring instead of sponsorship: Organizations love to introduce mentoring programs, but they don’t move the needle in addressing systems issues. We talk a lot on the power of sponsorship over mentorship. Our recent blog post goes into depth on that topic. Mentorship and sponsorship are two different things. Sponsors are focused on providing connections for higher-profile opportunities and they advocate for women in places where they can’t advocate for themselves.
  3. Vague feedback: One of the greatest systemic problems is that most women are given vague feedback. Men are often afraid to give the feedback necessary for women to grow. There are a number of reasons for this including; the ‘me too’ movement. This created caution for men in providing feedback. Also fear of discrimination plays a part in the equation and finally protective hesitation. 
  4. The Mindsets of your executives need to change: Your executive team needs to be self aware. They need to be ready to change and adapt to new ways of working and thinking. It’s only then that real change can occur. WOTW works with companies to uncover the mindsets of their executives that they may not even be aware of.
  5. Ineffective networking:  When I coach women, the first area they want to talk about is ‘building their network’ and the nuance we discuss is that I don’t help women ‘build their network’ but rather teach them how to ‘leverage their network’. Leveraging a network is much different than building a network so we help them with that. It’s important your leaders know how to do this. 
  6. The Mindsets of your Women Leaders need to change: There may be pre-established mindsets with the women on your team that hold your programs back. We recently worked with a large fortune 50 company. The CEO wanted one of his Senior Leaders to join our program. When we talked with her, she believed she had done all the work she needed to do. She didn’t believe in the work that was needed. We tried to work with her but she refused to change. She was then passed up for the next promotion because she didn’t want to change anything about her approach. WOTW helps you uncover situations like this and helps everyone on the team work with their self awareness. What she didn’t know is that her next promotion opportunity was coming up and she was not going to get it.

Third, remember that it’s a lot to do to move the needle. We recommend that you don’t try to fix everything with sweeping programs. Nail the areas that are hot spots for your organization in particular and go after those two to three areas

If you want to go fast and identify the real areas, you can’t do this on your own. I often have conversations with CEOs around this topic. The secret to having impact and going fast is to identify the areas that will have the highest impact and yet if you’re ‘inside the bottle it’s hard to see the label’. 

There’s a nuance to identifying your own particular areas. We can help. The only way to close the gender gap is to focus on it systematically. Connect with us to get started. 

Email us at [email protected]

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