Dr. Rita's Blog
The Women’s Heath Leadership Trust https://www.whltrust.org recently hosted a gathering of women leaders to discuss the highlights of the research on women CEOs conducted by Korn Ferry and supported by The Rockefeller Foundation. https://engage.kornferry.com/womenceosspeak I was fortunate enough to attend.
One of the key takeaways for me was the clear understanding that sponsors are absolutely vital to women getting into higher-level executive roles.
Sponsors are Different
Sponsors are different from mentors. Sponsors put women’s names forward for next-level roles when the women are not in the room when those decisions are being made. Sponsors actively advocate for women with the clear intention of building the pipeline that gets more women to the top.
There were a number of senior executive women in my discussion group that night who clearly stated that they got to their next-level role because a senior leader told them they could do it. And then the senior leader put their name forward for an advanced role.
Tough and Unpredictable Assignments
We know from the research that women tend to underestimate themselves. They put their heads down and work hard, thinking that’s the way to move up. Getting results is important, but to move up, aspiring women need to take on tough and unpredictable job assignments.
These women need to build the characteristics of courage and resilience along with developing the abilities to take risks and manage ambiguity. Sponsors are important because they usually know where those tough and unpredictable job assignments are. And they are in positions to recommend who should get those assignments.
The Research Says
The research identified six differentiating skills women need to develop on their way to senior executive roles. Page 30 of the report notes those skills and their definitions as:
Engages and Inspires: Creating a climate where people are motivated to achieve the company’s objectives.
Develops Talent: Developing people to meet both their career goals and the organization’s goals.
Builds Effective Teams: Assembling and leading teams that employ diverse skills and perspectives to achieve common goals.
Directs Work: Providing clear direction, delegating, and removing obstacles so work gets done efficiently.
Courage: Stepping up to address difficult issues and saying what needs to be said.
Manages Ambiguity: Operating effectively even when things are uncertain or the way forward is unclear.
If you are in a position to sponsor a talented woman leader, you have three things to do:
For Aspiring Women Leaders
If you are an aspiring woman leader, here are three things you can do:
Remember this Quote from one of the women CEOs:
“I was hit in the face with the epiphany that as a leader I did not need to have all the answers, but in fact, if I surrounded myself with people who were smarter than I was in critical areas, we could collectively move our business much further and faster.”
A Sign of Corporate Health
Increasing numbers of women at the top of executive leadership is a sign of corporate health. The Peterson Institute for International Economics, and others, have established the positive links between gender representation and business performance as well as gender equality and economic growth in general.
Spread the Word!
Being a sponsor and having sponsors is one of the most powerful actions we can take to get more women contributing at the highest levels in our organizations. And that’s good for everyone.
If you’d like to know how you can use leadership coaching to propel yourself to your next level of performance or work through challenges you are facing today, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you! Rita@Wiseleader.net.
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