Where Most Women Leadership Programs Miss the Mark

Where Most Women Leadership Programs Miss the Mark

By Audrey McGuckin, CEO, WOTW - 

Leadership programs. Empowerment programs. DEI investments. Companies are investing, but is your organization seeing the results? Most likely not, and the worst part is that it’s hard to identify why. It’s the corporate system that is flawed and DEI and ERG  programs aren’t necessarily addressing the systematic problems.  

Money is being thrown at women leadership programs that are more of the same programming, and DEI investments go nowhere. However, you can make a switch by participating in a program that addresses issues at the systems level. A program that actually creates the changes needed, while giving women the training they need to navigate the system. That’s when empowerment within your organization goes to levels you never thought possible. 

One Fortune 500 company we work with had an internal women leaders program that they had developed. Their head of Business Development approached us and was interested in a new way of doing things as he thought the internal program was too set in stone to change. The internal program didn’t speak to the individual needs of the women leaders and was going nowhere. We were able to work with them to apply our Compass and Navigator solutions to offer a more expanded program and fix the actual systems that were holding women leaders back in the organization.

I have many other stories like this, and over the years, I’ve uncovered the factors in the system that need to be looked at. However, the main issue I find is this: Most leadership programs are focused on fixing the women rather than fixing the systems. Therein lies the fatal mistake.

So if you are considering a Women Leaders or DEI program, here’s how to make sure they  don’t miss the mark:

1. Fix the system, not the women

Make sure the structures within your organization are working and integrated. Then help make the system visible for women and support them to navigate the system. 

2. It can't be a ‘one and done’ development investment; it has to be a journey over time

Most women leader programs are 1 to 2-day classes. I’m sorry, but I’ve conducted classes like that in the past, and I can tell you it’s not enough time to change the muscle memory or build the necessary capabilities. Real development happens in a year-long journey.  Twelve months of work gives your women the chance to learn, apply, ask questions, and really grow their skillset.

3. Focus on peer learning 

Peer learning is one of the most powerful ways women can learn from others, and in my 30 years, I’ve found it’s the best way to learn. Psychologically, women need a safe environment for learning. Peer learning provides that. It also provides a space for honesty, compassion, and thinking outside the box.

4. Start with self awareness 

Being self aware is a key component of effective leadership. Any program should include a module for developing self awareness and confidence with your leaders. Help them learn to know themselves. 

5. Help women dream big 

 A Korn Ferry study found that only 12% of women always knew they wanted to be a CEO. More than half gave no thought to being CEO until someone explicitly told them they had it in them. Make sure the programs you implement support your women thinking and dreaming big. Support their growth and dreams. 

6. Provide reinforcement after the program ends

The year is over, and everyone goes back to normal? No! Continue the journey and the development. Work with leaders to give the groups assignments,  develop accountability partners within the organization, and create and leverage a sponsorship program

If you’re an HR leader looking for an empowerment program that drives results, let’s connect. Set up a call with me today so we can uncover how to address your systems issues and find success.




Take your journey to the next step. Learn more or enroll in the program here
Registration closes November 16, 2021


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