More Women in Leadership Makes Good Business Sense. How Can We Make It Happen?

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Striking the right gender balance in organizational leadership roles can help a business better understand and serve its clients or customers. A truly diverse and inclusive organization better mirrors its customer base, which helps the company connect with those customers to nurture long-lasting, positive relationships that drive additional revenue and profitability.

Here’s how to make a more gender-diverse leadership team happen in your organization:

Leaders Must Make Room for Employees to Shine

1. Delegate More

Leaders need to hand some of their current job duties over to other people within the organization. This isn’t about preselecting the next person to be promoted. Rather, it is about giving more visibility to more employees.

By delegating more, leaders can engage all employees, both men and women. Leaders also get the opportunity to see how specific team members who may have otherwise gone overlooked manage additional responsibility. Plus, in getting some of their duties off their plates, leaders gain more time to mentor and develop more employees.

2. Give Every Employee the Chance to Show Off

Employees have to be given opportunities to show off their leadership skills. One easy way to do this is for each supervisor to give each of their direct reports the opportunity to lead a meeting. The supervisor should work with the employee before the meeting to make sure they are on the right page, and then debrief with the employee after the meeting. The debrief should be used to see how the employee felt about their leadership and to discuss any areas for improvement.

Another strategy to help employees shine is job swapping. Try a part-time job swap, allowing two people from different departments to trade some of their job duties. This builds interdepartmental relationships and provides opportunities for employees to learn different skills and perform outside the confines of their current roles. Job swapping can keep engagement high by introducing variety into an employee’s role, and it helps leaders easily discover where the talent is.

Women Seeking Promotions Must Take Charge of Their Careers

On the flip side, women seeking leadership roles cannot rely on diversity and inclusion programs to get them a promotion. The way to get noticed is to identify gaps within the organization and develop a game plan to address them.

Start by getting consensus among other employees. Ask for their input on organizational challenges, collaborate on a plan to address those challenges, and present the plan as a team to the relevant division or department leader. The woman seeking to establish herself as a leader can show off her skills by introducing the group at the beginning of the presentation and summarizing the presentation’s conclusions at the end. This showcases the ability to identify gaps in the organization, gain consensus, pull a team together, execute on specific tasks, and deliver messages with a team-oriented approach.

Power-hungry colleagues have been known to steal innovative ideas and present them as their own. Be proactive to guard against this. Connect with each member of the team to find out why they wanted to be part of the initiative and what their career goals are. Ask how you can assist them in reaching those goals. By connecting individually and setting a personal stake in their career success, you can turn your teammates into a loyal following. In the event an idea is stolen, a loyal team will rally around its leader, preserving their visibility.

Diversity is not a quota to be filled or an item to be checked off a to-do list. Having an authentically inclusive organization produces powerful benefits for a company. It sends a strong message within the organization and to the customer base that all demographics are valued, which builds consumer confidence and drives greater innovation, revenue, and profit.

Responsibility for diversity starts with leadership. Leaders have to create environments where ideas and people can flourish for the good of the customer and the company. Leaders can either spend time on the front lines cultivating talent and mentoring future leaders, or they can spend time on the back end doing damage control when the wrong people are promoted or the company catches flack for not being diverse.

Choose wisely.

Vicki Brackett has spent her entire career leading small, medium, and Fortune 500 organizations through startup, turnaround, and rapid growth scenarios. For more information, visit www.theleadershiptoolbox.com or www.vickibrackett.com.

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