4 Ways to Improve Your Pipeline of Women Leaders

4 Ways to Improve Your Pipeline of Women Leaders

Women aren’t leaving your organization because they want better pay. They want support and the opportunity to grow. 

By Audrey McGuckin, CEO, WOTW - 

We recently conducted an informal poll of our audience and found that 78% of our followers can see themselves leaving their organization in the next five years. Interestingly, women leaders shared with us that they are not leaving because they want better pay, but rather, they are leaving because they do not feel supported and there are limited opportunities for growth. 

Executives are reacting to the turn towards a slowing economy and many are starting to cut investment in employee development.  My thirty years of experience gives me the expertise to challenge you to not make this mistake. This is not the time to make cuts in investing in talent. If you do, your employees will leave and if they leave you have an expensive problem.

As we shared in our last blog, losing employees is expensive. A potential recession should put retention as top of mind for leaders globally. When it comes to women, leaders should be especially mindful that a survey of 22,000 companies found that those organizations who have women in approximately 30% of the management positions were more profitable than those who do not put women in power. There are also multiple studies that show when women are put at the forefront of innovation, companies outperform. As a University of Texas study found women bring “more skills and better performance to the c-suite.” 

As a CEO, how can you improve the pipeline of women leaders in your organization, even as you tighten your budget? 

Here’s 4 things you can do:

1. Improve YOUR leadership skills. I’m going to be brutally honest, the inability to improve gender equity in your organization has to do with your leadership. Gender equity commitment has to come from the top. If you are a CEO, you have to lead your organization. You have to take charge of your gender equity programs. Don’t relegate everything to HR. Be the leader the women on your team need. Devote yourself to being a champion for women leaders. Require your executives to support your women leaders. If you do, the women on your team will stay.

2. Improve the experience of women in your organization to improve the pipeline of women on your team. This starts with caring about the women on your team and how they feel. If you want to retain them, you have to make sure they feel supported in their roles. You have to make sure they see a growth path. It sounds simple but many leaders overlook this (again relegate programs to HR) rather than showing real concern for women team members. 

3. Create the space and time for women leaders to grow. The easiest way to do this is to give them the opportunity to join a leadership development group or training. Give leaders the time and space to learn new skills and grow their personal development plans. I believe that the biggest gift you can give women leaders are the skills they need to navigate the corporate system. Put them in a training that teaches them how to network effectively, advocate for themselves, map their career, and advance their skills. For example, our year-long Navigator program gives  director and c-suite level women several hours each month to learn and grow. The overall feedback we’ve received is that the women in the program appreciate the support from their CEO. It’s also time and space to think bigger, which is good for you and your company. 

For example, our Navigator participants said:

“Navigator has enabled me to see things differently. It has helped with a larger perspective from my daily job and my career.”

“This program has taught me to speak up and be bold. I’m getting more projects and I’m thinking bigger and broader. I’m able to connect the dots in new ways.” 

“Navigator has been grounding for me. It’s helpful to have the space to develop and grow and also to have this group of women to learn from and navigate with.”

4. Offer Peer-Led Learning. Women need to feel empowered to use their voice.. One way to help women leaders unearth limiting behaviors and mindsets is to put them in a safe environment where they can open up and learn. In fact, the latest research in neurobiology shows that emotional safety is most important in developing a satisfying connection for real change. For this reason there are many women’s leadership programs that operate as peer-led learning programs. Our Navigator program is one of those. Creating a safe place to open up with peers, and learn from them, is empowering. We also find that women in our program learn from each other, even though they are in a variety of industries. So, if you want to give the women in your organization a way to grow and expand, give them the funds to sign up for a peer-led learning program. 

These simple four things can help you retain your women leaders. And as they move up, your pipeline of leaders improves. As they talk with others about their great experience as a leader in your company, your visibility grows. But if you don’t invest in them, you’ll find your pipeline will dry up quickly. 

If you need help with your women leadership programs, reach out to us here. We’re here to help. 

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