We all know the statistics at this point: Women represent 52 percent of the total U.S. population but only 20 percent of C-suite roles, the Fortune 500 list includes only 32 women (just two of them women of color), and entry-level women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers. Our recent research also shows that men are 50 percent more likely to report their leadership training is very effective in improving their job performance.
All of this is despite the fact that gender-diverse companies experience better financial performance; companies whose leadership ranks consist of at least 30 percent women are more likely to be among the top 20 percent of companies.
We know we’re preaching to the choir – but what can HR leaders do about this gender gap? There’s plenty – but here are three key strategies.
Encourage Manager Support of Leadership Development
When employees feel their managers support their leadership development, their perceptions of access to development opportunities was more likely to be higher. That’s not surprising; what is significant, though, is that the improved perception was significantly better for women than it was for men. So, while it’s important that managers encourage their employees to take advantage of opportunities to develop leadership skills on the job and through formal development programs, it’s even more important that managers of women do so.
Implement Formal and On-the-Job Coaching Programs
Our research found that when it keeps women’s needs and learning preferences in mind, coaching can be a powerful way to equalize access to leadership development. Whether you hire a coach from outside your organization or train managers and trainers in coaching skills, make sure you have a process for women to receive one-on-one attention from someone who can provide her with support, help her identify strengths and weaknesses, and assist her in setting and achieving career development goals.
Measure and Report on the Leadership Pipeline.
Before beginning any new leadership development initiatives aimed at closing the gender gap, take a baseline assessment of your organization. What’s the gender ratio like at each level? What will it take, in pure numbers, to achieve balance? Use this assessment to inform your goals. Then, measure progress.
Make sure that reporting on gender equality is standard throughout the organization. Align programs to the goals your organization and departments set for improving gender parity. Then, evaluate – and celebrate! – success.