Lost leaders: Does your talent pipeline need nurturing?
Monday, July 08, 2013
Posted by: Barbara Francella
By Joan Toth
Women — as customers, employees and
leaders — are increasingly critical to your organization’s success. Yet the
full potential of women’s leadership remains unrealized in the very companies that
spend millions trying to influence their spending.
Despite the proven benefits of women’s
leadership, too few companies in the grocery industry are investing in women
and advancing them to key decision-making roles. They’re not providing the
career-development and mentoring opportunities that would help women climb the
ladder. Most important, they are failing to foster the kind of personal
"sponsorship” that allows so many men to ascend to the corner suite.
While most companies have become
good at recruiting a "fair share” of women, exclusion from informal networks, a
lack of role models and not having a sponsor to create opportunities continue
to hinder the careers of women, according to a report by McKinsey & Co.
Outdated beliefs, deep in the corporate
culture, may be the single greatest force holding women back, according to Joanna Barsh and Lareina Yee, authors
of the McKinsey study. Both male and female managers often
take a woman out of the running for promotions because they assume she can’t
handle both work and family obligations. Diversity officers and experts
reported that women are often evaluated for promotions primarily on their performance,
while men tend to be promoted on their potential. While corporate leaders may be acting with good
intentions — not wanting women to fail in a new role — the mindset keeps women
The harsh truth is this: No company’s
gender diversity initiative or work-life program can overcome these entrenched views
Start in the middle
are proven ways to nurture female talent and place more women on the road to
executive positions. Barsh and Yee found women’s interest in leadership
increases as they move from entry-level to middle-management roles, but they
also learned as women get older, their desire to advance in their organizations
is more likely to fade. Companies that focus their development
strategies and programs on middle management and increase
the number of women at the vice
greatly improve the
odds of women making it to the c-suite.
surveying more than 400 female middle managers and 200 human resource managers
in the United Kingdom, Alexander Mann Solutions offered six recommendations for
expanding the talent pipeline. They include: Focus on the business case for gender diversity to push it higher up the
corporate agenda; align human resource leaders’ perceptions with women’s career
ambitions; include female middle managers in succession planning; extend flexible
work options to allow more women to accept promotion higher positions; and
encourage women to make more responsibility for their own careers.
Women’s actions — or lack of action —
can be part of the problem. Fewer women than men ask for more responsibility in
their organizations and take control. Too often women limit themselves, simply
waiting to be asked to participate in leadership training programs, take on a
new role or get promoted to leadership.
Alexander Mann Solutions’ sixth recommendation addresses
this challenge head on: Companies should help reshape the relationships between
mid-level female managers and women in senior roles. Many human resource
leaders, the researchers found, overestimate the contributions made by senior women as role models.
If women leaders are perceived as unrepresentative in terms of their personal
style or work-life issues, female middle managers will not identify and engage
add my own recommendation: Like any other effort, strategies for advancing women need to be
assessed and results measured. Nothing measured, nothing gained — for women or
Toth is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women. This article first
appeared in Progressive
Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the
authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive
Women or its Officers, Board members and sponsors.
"Is unconscious bias killing careers in your company?"
and other Memo from the CEO blogs