Women are already empowered. Organizations must catch up


The rise of women in leadership over the past decade would not have been possible without the serious, strong-minded and pioneering female luminaries who came before them.

Disruptors like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who fought for women’s suffrage, challengers like Kathryn Graham, who became the first woman to run a Fortune 500 company, and leaders Today’s like Karen Lynch, who oversees the $ 268 billion dollar retail health giant CVS Health, have all boldly burst into previously uncharted territory for women. Every woman behind them has benefited from their refusal to accept the status quo.

For over 100 years, women have turned old concepts and structures upside down. So why are we still having discussions about empowering women in the workplace?

I believe they are already empowered. Women earn 57% of bachelor’s degrees in this country, women make up 50.2% of the college-educated workforce, and more women than ever are earning six-figure incomes. Women have a place at the table, now we need to make sure that this place positions them for growth and allows them to harness all their skills and talents.

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The challenge today is to ensure that the workplace systems and rules of engagement originally designed by and for men evolve to meet the basic needs of everyone in the workplace. In the future, the systems that don’t catch up – and the organizations that host them – will be left behind.

Courageous women who managed to navigate outdated work systems had to work harder than their male counterparts to gain the trust of their superiors. They had to make more sacrifices personally and professionally to reach the top. They are held to a higher standard than their male colleagues. They are more harshly judged and more likely blamed for their underperformance. And they have less time to implement a new initiative before it is discontinued or the leadership of the initiative is reassigned.

It must stop.

Given the societal and regulatory pressure on companies to have more women on their boards and senior executives, key stakeholders within these companies are starting to support women leaders more. , but too often this support is fragile and can be fleeting. Now is the time for companies to take a close look at the constructions within their organization and think about the changes needed to better challenge, motivate and support women in the workplace.

Here are seven organizational improvements needed to create the conditions for women to advance to positions of power faster, contribute to financial success, and achieve long-term career sustainability.

• Organizational values ​​that put ED&I principles into practice rather than honoring them. Diversity, equity and inclusion are corporate buzzwords and a priority that many organizations talk about, but they are neither tracked nor measured. According to Mercer, 81% of companies say they are trying to improve DE&I, but only 64% track gender representation and fewer track hires, promotions and departures by gender. The company also found that only 42% of organizations have documented multi-year DE&I strategies and only 50% set formal goals.

• Organizational cultures that reveal and address biases against high performing women. A study by Kieran Snyder, CEO of Textio, found that negative personality comments appeared 76% of the time in reviews of women, while only 2% of reviews of men. The subtle nuances of prejudice appear when traits that are considered valuable to male leaders – straightforward, aggressive, motivated – are often identified as problematic for women.

• Organizational leaders who provide objective and meaningful feedback to women. Women are consistently less likely than men to receive outcome feedback when they receive both positive and constructive feedback. Women, like men, need a clear understanding of what they do well, how it relates to results, and areas they need to improve to further contribute to the success of the organization.

• Organizational initiatives that intentionally create opportunities for women to lead early in their careers. McKinsey & Company’s 2020 Women in the Workplace study identifies the ‘broken rung’ as a barrier to women’s access to leadership positions. Although some progress has been made, women are much less likely than their male counterparts to be offered the first step towards a managerial position. The McKinsey study noted that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women were promoted. For women of color, the statistics are even more worrying, only 58 black and 71 Latin women have been promoted. As a result, before the pandemic, women held only 38% of managerial positions while men held 62%. The impacts of the pandemic, which has forced many female executives out of the workforce, have yet to be analyzed and could further amplify these disturbing statistics.

• Organizational constructions that give women a clear and tangible understanding of their leadership strengths – as early as possible. Part of the ‘broken rungs’ phenomenon is that women in their twenties often underestimate their leadership abilities, question themselves, and are less likely than men to apply for higher paying jobs if they do not have all the necessary skills. qualifications. In fact, several studies show that women, even early in their careers, are seen as highly effective leaders when assessed using a 360-degree Leadership Assessment.

• Organizational support and encouragement for women mentors to other women. Women who make it to the C-suite have one main thing in common. They are the product of mentoring by other women in the workplace and the return on social capital of their networks. Most organizations do not offer formal mentoring programs at all, let alone women-to-women mentoring programs.

• Organizational policies that incorporate workplace flexibility. The pandemic has taught us that flexible work environments and working hours are not a barrier to productivity and, in fact, can lead to increased productivity. Moreover, the pandemic has shown that when flexibility is not an option for women, they downgrade their careers or leave the workplace altogether. Flexibility is essential to a working parent’s success and to the sustainability of their career. The measurement of success and promotion opportunities should be based on results – not when or where the job was completed, or the number of hours stamped on a clock.

Now is the time for leaders to take bold action to challenge outdated systems, confront old-school organizational beliefs and values, and build a more sustainable future for all working Americans. Yes, women are empowered, but organizations should encourage them to seize new opportunities, emphasize women’s contributions to company goals and encourage women to seek positions at the highest levels of the organization. .

Now is the time for all leaders to use their influence to dismantle dysfunctional systems, create healthier work cultures, and create more equal opportunities for all.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com on June 28. Emily Rogers, Founder and CEO of Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching and 2021 Lakeland Chamber of Commerce Finalist of the Year, is an Executive Coach, Business Consultant and Retreat Facilitator. She strategically advises and supports individuals and organizations in growing and achieving their full potential in a focused and balanced manner. You can connect with her at http://emilyrogers.com.

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