As we approach International Women’s Day 2020, here, Rebecca Hourston, MD, Talking Talent, calls on businesses to start driving female-centric coaching initiatives to create a better workplace.
The lack of female leaders has been well-documented – and even dubbed a ‘concern’ – in the media. Exacerbating this is the hypocrisy of organisations saying one thing – agreeing there is a problem, pledging change – whilst not acting. This is despite the advantages that true diversity and inclusivity can bring.
According to research, innovation is six times higher in companies where men and women are treated equally, whilst companies with a more diverse management team have 19% higher revenue – proving the positive and tangible impact of female talent.
More needs to be done by businesses to truly tackle the issue of diversity within leadership. There are simply not enough female leaders – with 44% of women claiming their gender has hindered their career or will in the future – and this is a conversation that has been taking place for a long time.
The problem is no longer about raising awareness; after all, it’s a widely-accepted issue. But by opting for the safe choice of generic talent development, organisations are not getting to the heart of what women need, nor understanding why investing in dedicated female development results in sustainable organisational change.
Why? Because prioritising women might be seen as positive discrimination, so board hypocrisy seems the safer option; to sweep the issue under the HR rug.
There are concerns that by shining a light on our female talent, the men are left in the dark. But it’s not about taking men out of the picture; it’s about putting emphasis on women to get them into the picture in the first place.
This is the great paradox of inclusion – that it must also involve exclusion at times. It’s not about advocating the promotion of women over men; it’s about taking positive action, to unlock the full potential of your female talent. It’s also not about taking a women-only approach; it’s about a female-centric one – including training male line managers, as part of creating a systemic solution to the problem.
Women in leadership
In recognition of this, Talking Talent, a global coaching consultancy leading the inclusivity and gender diversity agenda, has a dedicated Women in Leadership Programme that is aimed at significantly improving the talent pipeline for organisations that recognise the commercial benefit of retaining and progressing their best female trailblazers. It focuses on unlocking an individual’s full potential in line with their goals and those of the business, on both a one-to-one and group basis. M&S undertook the programme, and as a result, 40% of their senior positions are now filled by high-performing women.
Women’s leadership programmes are not for everyone – it depends on what a business’ organisational goals are, and where they are on their inclusion journey. But part of the return on investment for these tailored programmes is showing that companies are actively recognising a systemic problem and actually working to address it.
Driving inclusion and diversity makes a tangible difference to the progressiveness of an organisation’s culture and employee engagement – and ultimately it’s great for the bottom line. It drives business value. The more women who upskill and up-level, the more we move closer to a future where there is no longer a discussion about the relevance of being male or female. It is our mission at Talking Talent to eventually make women-centric programmes unnecessary, but for now, it is clear that there is still a long way to go. We want to empower businesses to empower women, to break bias and change the culture for the better.
Instead of being frightened of the difference between the sexes, businesses must embrace it and use it for a clear commercial advantage – after all, different strengths and weaknesses make a stronger team. Valuing and investing in female talent means more profit, higher innovation, a positive company reputation – and making a clear difference in a changing landscape where staying still means sacrificing success.