We’re all familiar with the disparities between men and women in the workplace. Women are underrepresented in leadership (just 15% of executives are women), they are less likely to be promoted (for every 100 women promoted to manager, 130 men are promoted), and they are paid less than their male counterparts (women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man). And the problem is more pronounced in health care.
Health care has one of the lowest shares of female CEOs at just 1.6%, according to a recent report from PwC’s Strategy& (see Fewer Than 3% Of Incoming CEOs Are Women), and another recently released report shows that female physicians earn significantly less than their male counterparts (Female Doctors Earn $20K Less Than Male Colleagues). All of these facts and figures become more stark when we look at the workplace realities for women of color. (For more, see The Gender Wage Gap: 2015; Annual Earnings Differences by Gender, Race, and Ethnicity and Women in the Workplace.)
Executive teams can look at these statistics in one of two ways. The statistics provide a rationale for why female representation among managers in an organization is low – or the statistics represent an opportunity to engage large and underused parts of the talent pool by creating policies that grow and retain female managers. The latter was the focus of a session last month, Cultivating Female Leaders: Achieving Gender Balance In Your Organization, led by Lindsay Musser Hough, principal at Deloitte Consulting and author of A Woman’s Framework for a Successful Career and Life, at The 2016 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat.
How do executives grow female leadership in their organizations? Ms. Hough offered three key approaches in that strategy.
Build Mentorship & Sponsorship Programs
Less experienced employees can always benefit from a mentor or sponsor to help them grow both within your organizational structure and on their individual career path. What’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor? A mentor can be at any level of the organization, and they provide feedback and advice, focus on personal and professional development, help to navigate the organizational culture, and serve as a sounding board for problems. A sponsor is someone in a senior leadership position who provides access to other leaders, gets challenging assignments for staff, provides cover for their staff in tough situations, and “pounds the table” for promotions. Whether you have formal mentorship programs or you encourage more casual relationships, your organization will benefit from these types of connections. (For more, see What I Learned From My Mentors & Why It Matters To Have Mentors and 4 Ways To Retain & Grow Millennial Employees.)
Think Differently About Leadership Styles
Over time, our societal definition of leadership has evolved. We’ve gone from thinking that leadership was an inherent trait to acknowledging that leadership is a skill that can be taught. This evolution is continuing. Stereotypical “male” (aggressive, dominant, forceful, individualistic) and “female” (helpful, communicative, compassionate, interpersonally sensitive) traits have blended more in people’s minds as they consider what qualities are necessary for great leadership. Your organization should be open to thinking about what it takes to be a leader in a new way, without being tied to the old stereotypes. (For more, see Hiring A New Exec? Promote From Within Or Go Outside? and Why It’s So Hard To Fill Those Executive Positions At Behavioral Health & Social Services Provider Organizations.)
Consider Career Path Navigation In A New Way
Balancing personal and professional life is a challenge for all employees at all levels of an organization, and our cultural perceptions of work-life balance has shifted over the years. One way to change your culture is to shift away from the traditional “corporate ladder” model and move towards a “corporate lattice.” The corporate lattice encourages upward momentum while also considering the realities of talent management. At different times in employees’ lives, they’ll seek different employment situations. Therefore, this structure allows for lateral moves, multiple paths upward, and changing paces for growth and career development. The corporate lattice can help your organization keep top talent over the long-term. (For more, see The Two-Way Street of Coaching and The Art & Science Of Replacing Key Executives.)
Almost every health and human service executive team talks about the “workforce” as a key strategic issue. Developing and retaining female leadership could be one big part of the solution. To continue the conversation, follow me on Twitter @sthrena. And save the date for September 26-28, 2017, when we’ll host The 2017 OPEN MINDS Executive Leadership Retreat in Gettysburg.