Last week saw the latest in action-oriented events in what I and many others globally have dubbed the Year of the Woman. Like last January’s Women’s March, the International Women’s Day and “A Day Without a Woman” events (both held on March 8) played a vital role in galvanizing women and giving them a collective voice to raise issues of gender balance and inclusion.
Hand in hand with these initiatives, though, we need both female and male leaders who are willing to strategically build on the momentum of these important efforts. At SHAMBAUGH, in light of the issues that these women’s events continue to raise, we’re putting extra emphasis on encouraging women to focus on being bold, rising up, and stepping into leadership.
To lead the change for gender equality, there are many things women can do, which include identifying what they can do within their organizations to reengineer outdated practices to make them more inclusive, and amplifying other women to bring them along. Women can also break down the mindset of gender biases by building productive partnerships with men who understand and value inclusion.
With that in mind, at SHAMBAUGH, we are working hard to encourage men to take steps to actively champion gender equality and inclusion. Here are some recommendations of how men can do their part toward a shared solution of achieving gender balance within their organizations:
- Understand the benefits, competitive advantage, and business case of promoting gender inclusion. For decades, companies have invested training resources toward inclusion and diversity initiatives to advance female talent. Yet clearly this approach is not working well enough: today, only a handful of women represent senior leadership in executive roles. The missing link to this equation is the impact that male managers have on their female talent. Male leaders should take the time to understand the “what’s in it for me” of gender-balanced leadership. Specifically, there’s an undeniable business case for what I refer to as, Integrated Leadership, which calls on a unified voice of both men and women together tapping on the unique strengths of each other. Studies have repeatedly shown that organizations with more women in leadership roles are not only more profitable, but also better able to attract and retain top talent and maintain a competitive advantage. This is good for men, women, and companies.
- Promote the value of paying it forward so that top talent of both genders is recognized and rewarded. In my latest book Make Room for Her, I reported on research proving that women and men are equally capable leaders. In fact, in one study by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, women scored higher than men in three-quarters of the competencies linked to outstanding leadership—and the higher the leadership level, the wider this gender gap grows. With this in mind, men are in the perfect position to help high-potential women on their teams advance. Remember that both women’s and men’s natural leadership tendencies are critical in today’s business environment, so be sure to recognize and reward female leaders even if—or perhaps we should say “especially if”—their style doesn’t match your own.
- Become aware of “Sticky Floors” that hold women back from advancement. Unless men understand the self-limiting beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors that many women have that can keep them from reaching their full leadership potential, men won’t be able to help women circumvent these Sticky Floors. With the knowledge that women really do face different issues than men in the workplace, men should use this insight to be proactive about mentoring and sponsoring talented women. In addition to opening doors to career growth for women, men can also prioritize other ways of being more inclusive, such as diversifying their network and identifying their own unconscious biases.
As I’ve said before, the issues we’re talking about here aren’t just “women’s issues”—they are everyone’s issues. By working together as a united front with a collective goal of gender parity, men, women, and organizations can all become an essential part of creating the change we need to see in our leadership ranks.
Rebecca is an internationally acclaimed and sought-after keynote speaker, leadership expert and contributing editor for Harvard Business Review and the Huffington Post.
Ask Rebecca to speak at your organization by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about SHAMBAUGH’s leadership solutions and how they can build and sustain gender equity across your organization. Accelerate your female talent through SHAMBAUGH’s customized In-House Leadership Programs for women and our signature Women in Leadership and Learning (WILL) Program. For more information visit: www.shambaughleadership.com
Rebecca is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor, Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton, and Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results.