How to Help Women Attain Leadership Positions at Work

It’s no secret that we need to get more women in management positions.  While women earn nearly 60% of undergraduate degrees, they make up a mere 7% of top executives in Fortune 100 companies and just 20% of leadership in high-tech companies in the United States.  Women with top-notch communication, relationship building, and organizational skills often make for great managers – so why aren’t there more of these women in leadership positions?  Stigmas, lack of opportunities, structural inequities, lack of transparency and inadequate flexibility could all be to blame.

Here’s how you can help ambitious women at your company realize their executive potential:

1. Welcoming Culture

Creating a welcoming company culture is the first step in hiring more female talent right from the start.  Anu Mandapati, founder of IMPACT Leadership for Women, suggests starting even before women are hired.  She advises that companies adopt blind hiring to remove names from the resume screening process, offer market rate salaries rather than relying on past pay, and reward achievements rather than worked hours.

2. Reverse Mentoring

Another way companies can help women succeed is by pairing women who have been identified as potential leaders with current executives in the company.  This practice helps up-and-coming female leaders attain visibility, helps break down gender biases, and offers a learning experience for both parties.

3. The Buddy System

Companies like Deloitte use a similar process, dubbed the “buddy system,” to help bring awareness to promising female employees.  In Deloitte’s system, senior executives are held accountable for their mentees’ success.  If she learns new skills and expands her networks, her coach receives a better performance review and higher pay.  This offers incentives for current executives to help women achieve their full potential.

4. Flexible Work Schedules

A rigid work schedule could be holding back female employees at your company.  Allowing women more opportunities to work from home lets them be there for their kids or ailing parents while still staying on top of their work.  As mentioned, focus on outcomes over hours spent in the office to give women a more equal opportunity to succeed.

5. Family Support

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, women are more likely to interrupt their career to attend to their families.  For instance, while over half of working women attested that having children made it harder to advance in their career, only 16% of men felt the same way.  Offering sufficient parental leave, child care facilities or programs, and options to work for home can go miles towards ensuring that talented women don’t get left behind.

6. Transparent Career Mapping

Debatably the biggest factor in helping women attain power is transparency.  Fairly assess the potential of male and female employees using measurable standards, and then craft equivalent development opportunities, stretch assignments, and promotion schedules.  Creating this structure makes opportunities for development clear to both male and female employees and avoids gender bias.

When it comes to putting more females in power, even the most diverse companies often flounder.  To fix this, don’t ignore gender; instead, deliberately change your company’s practices to empower female employees.  Make career paths and opportunities transparent, offer more malleable schedules, and champion accomplishments over hours to help women earn more seats at the (executive board) table.