managemnet company strategy managemanet Where Women’s Leadership Development Programs Fall Short

Where Women’s Leadership Development Programs Fall Short

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The demand and number of women’s leadership development programs has exploded in recent years. These programs offer significant opportunities for women to become better equipped for the challenges of senior leadership roles and to tackle gender bias and its associated barriers. However, if deployed without any broader efforts to promote women and without accountability from managers and leaders, it may signal that women are lacking and need to be fixed, or that the underrepresentation of women in senior leadership positions is a result of their inability to compete with men. Sending only girls to gender-specific leadership programs reinforces gender stereotypes. These programs can also be another gender tax for women. Finally, there is a risk that sending women to WLDPs becomes a form of superficial or performative allyship.

The email landed in my inbox during my fifth year of academic medicine. It was an invitation for a women’s leadership development program, forwarded by a male senior leader, who wrote, “You should apply for this!”

In a mixture of confusion and anger, I (Heather) responded loudly, “Another one?!” In that time, I have attended four leadership development programs and several professional development seminars, all clearly designed for women. The bitter irony? This latest invitation came just three months after I received the “Emerging Leader” award from the American Academy of Medical Colleges’ Group on Women in Medicine and Science, a national recognition for the leadership training I conducted in my self!

Although I understand that the purpose of the email is to encourage and support my career aspirations and I appreciate that even seasoned leaders can improve their skills, here is the unintended message:

I – the only female teacher in my department – really needed to work on my leadership skill set. My male colleagues did not.

The need and number of women’s leadership development programs (WLDPs) it has exploded in recent years. Sometimes included in women’s conferences, sometimes executive education, and other times tailored for specific companies, these programs offer important opportunities for women to be better equipped for challenges in senior leadership roles and tackling gender bias and its associated barriers. They provide safe spaces for women to share experiences in the workplace, offering a place for support and for practicing methods to achieve career advancement.

There is strong evidence that WLDPs do resultincluding higher promotion, higher retention, more sponsorship, a wider network, more knowledge and trust, and a better understanding of organizational structure and processes. And it constitutes an important element in the gender equity efforts of many organizations. Indeed, offering such opportunities is a convenient way for leaders and organizations to publicly demonstrate their commitment to gender diversity in leadership positions.

However, if deployed without any broader effort to promote women and without accountability from managers and leaders, there can be an insidious dark side to women’s deployment. in WLDPs: This may signal that women are lacking and need to be remedied, or that women’s underrepresentation in senior leadership positions is a result of their inability to compete with men.

There are several reasons this signal may occur. First, sending only women to gender-specific leadership programs is overwhelming gender stereotypes that men have traditionally valued agentic leader characteristics, while women are not. On the contrary: McKinsey research reveals that most of the leadership behaviors considered most effective for solving future business challenges – inspiration, participative decision making, setting expectations and rewards, developing people, and modeling on paper – more often shown to women. These leadership development methods and transformational leadership styles are a hallmark of WLDPs and are more commonly referred to as inclusive leadership. In comparison, RESEARCH REVEALS showed that the male-dominated general leadership development programs have historically focused on individual knowledge, the autonomous self, and traditional masculine leadership styles of transactional leadership.

We need to change the message about leadership programs and who needs them to eliminate the leadership deficit message for women. There is a fine line between celebrating and empowering talented junior women and instilling false feelings about leadership readiness.

Second, these programs can be another gender tax for women. Using WLDPs as a solution to systemic gender inequities informs women that it is their responsibility to correct the gender imbalance in the company’s leadership, and that the pay does not always correspond to the time commitment. Attending these programs – often requiring women not to work – requires more cognitive labor, and many women are reluctant to turn down these “opportunities,” fearing that it will signal a lack of interest in advancement. . And let’s not forget, while she is not working on her leadership skills, her male peers continue to work on daily tasks, face time with the boss, and work on projects that lead to promotion.

In this way, additional leadership training for women is a new version of office housework and unpaid work. It is especially taxing when women return to the same old workplace culture without the resourcing, opportunity, sponsorship, and culture change needed to thrive.

Finally, there is a risk that sending women to WLDPs becomes a form of superficiality or performative ally. He may have had an uplifting experience, felt empowered, and even ignited some new leadership strategies. But these good feelings become an exercise in futility if the leaders of the organization that nominated him and funded the program have no real investment in terms of personal commitment, sponsorship, and accountability for his development.

True allyship requires consistent and public advocacy for the advancement of underrepresented groups. It cannot be outsourced. If a talented woman is offered the opportunity to attend leadership training, make it a requirement that her managers sponsor her for new – and appropriately paid – opportunities upon her return. This should include promoting her potential and performance when she is not in the room, nominating her for stretching tasks, sharing social capital through intentional networking, publicly supporting women in roles of senior leadership, and expressing support for him in promotion decisions. If he is talented enough to be worthy of leadership preparation, then someone will be held accountable for his ascension to meaningful leadership roles.

In addition, men should be consciously integrated into WLDPs, so that they have the opportunity to listen and learn from their female colleagues. They can take that knowledge and reflect on how they can work together to make the workplace more equitable. For example, the Simmons School of Business Executive Education’s WLDP is a customized corporate program that includes male senior leaders in two sessions where they work in groups with female participants to learn about the gender dynamics that create inequality. Then they collaborate on changes in practices and policies that can have a measurable and lasting impact on gender equity in their company.

For every woman you send to a leadership development opportunity, promise to send a proportional number of men in existing leadership roles (depending on your organization’s gender balance) to an inclusive leadership development program, allyship workshop, or culturally sensitive training for workplace equity to improve. their gender intelligence. More, more good conference for women invite men to participate and some offer programs specific to inclusive leadership, cross-gender allyship, mentorship, and collaboration in the workplace.

Now is the time to redouble the meaningful commitment to women’s advancement that must include real opportunity and commitment to their success as a leader. WLDPs can have significant value, but companies should use these programs as opportunities to evaluate and improve the workplace itself. McKinsey study of her own Remarkable Women Program concluded that “these leadership programs can be powerful and empowering, but only if participating companies use them to hold up a mirror to themselves and the way they operate.”

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