Extra! What You as a Manager can do to promote Women Leaders

You heard it here first!

  1. The baby boomer generation is retiring,
  2. taking much of their hard-earned knowledge and experience with them,
  3. leaving leadership holes in organizations across the world.
  4. Oh, and women have been earning more college degrees than men since 2009.

Wait, this isn't the first time you're hearing it? Well, what are you waiting for, then?

3 Things to Consider if you're a Manager looking to fill Leadership positions with Women 

1. The Bitch Factor

Many women still think they're in competition with other women in the office. Like there are only a limited number of "good jobs" out there, and if you have one of them, fight tooth and nail to defend it and not let any other women rise. I think Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In* referred to it as the "Queen Bee" effect - there can only be one, and she's often seen as dominating her worker drones.

Couple of points to note

a) I'd argue women shouldn't be promoted to fill a quota or boost your PR - promote them because they're the most qualified and capable to take your teams and projects to the next level. Saves you legal hassles in the long run. And it order to promote objectively, you have to:

b) Keep your prejudices in check. Spend some conscious cortical real-estate on questioning your opinion of the women in your office, and if those opinions might be based on cultural programming, like "men = nice cool competent dude and ambitious leader", "woman = nurturing mother or horrible iron lady". It'll be a difficult cycle to break and it'll take time, but keep at it.

c) Create an environment where there's open communication and a sense of security and opportunity for more than one woman to rise.

2. Are there enough mentors and role models?

There are tons of women to look up to and be inspired by. They span all ages and industries. Just think Mother Theresa or Indira Gandhi, Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel, Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts, not to mention the women listed on Forbes' Most Powerful.

Still, I don't know about you, but they seem pretty far removed. Me, I like to know someone and have a closer relationship to help with the inspiration. Someone like the "elder" at my Toastmasters club, or the women stepping into those volunteer officer roles, or the new mentee who's just rearing to go give her first speech.

Can your top women spare an hour a month to hold luncheons? Or maybe an hour a quarter speaking to your local women's group?

Can you put practices in place where the top men mentor outstanding potential male and female talent? Doesn't have to be awkward between a senior man and an up-and-coming woman if mentoring is done during breakfast meetings instead of over dinner (another one of Lean In's brilliant practical suggestions).

3. Is your organization dynamic?

I heard somewhere that the way Congress was set up to work was people would go in for two years, give their input, and then go back home to their actual jobs. I love that idea of keeping things fresh and having people from many different walks of life represented. Must have been a logistical nightmare. Nowadays, with career politicians, of course, this is no longer the case. But I can't help but wonder if this would be an effective model for innovation and leadership development in a business.

Take a team of four men and four women, each with supporting staff as necessary, and rotate them through cycles of being the leader in charge. If you knew you'd have to count on the collaboration and support of someone two years down the line, how would that impact your attitude?

Ok, that's probably a pipe dream, but the larger point remains: does your organization have an internal job board, and are women's applications equally as encouraged as men's? I'll write some more about relocation concerns tomorrow, so I'll let you think about that for now. Looking forward to your comments!

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Image by Silecyra, Flickr, Creative Commons License.