Gender equity begins with addressing the specific challenges that women face in the workplace. In gender-neutral leadership trainings, women are provided with guidance that does not acknowledge their experiences, unique leadership styles, and the barriers that may prevent them from succeeding. Across the world, the disparities between men and women in the workplace are presented in the form of pay gaps, available opportunities, and lack of representation in high-level leadership positions.
Sociocultural beliefs of women have historically hindered them from accessing leadership positions by undermining their competence and intelligence when compared to men. Leadership trainings that bring awareness to these biases and systemic inequities restricting women’s growth and development not only help advance equity for women in the workplace, but in society as well.
Even from a very young age, the confidence of girls in themselves and their abilities is relatively lower than that of boys. Trainings that support women’s development and confidence-building are most effective when introduced early on in their careers. Institutions of higher education play an important role in advancing equity for women in society. With a lack of resources for women in areas such as mental health and well-being, major support, and career development, they are unequipped for workplace challenges. Women leadership programs can begin in the early college years and continue in all stages of their careers to help them achieve career advancements.
While the advancement of women has come a long way, the societal structures in place have held onto ingrained beliefs that women are not as equal as men. So, when women enter leadership roles with attitudes and behaviors that mirror the styles of their male peers, they are viewed as “bossy” or ineffective. This refers to a long-studied concept called the double bind, where women are not rewarded for performing the same stereotypical leadership traits as men.
To combat this issue, it is important to acknowledge that while there may be differences between masculine and feminine leadership styles, it is ultimately the organization that compels women in leadership roles to perform in the standard masculine leadership ways. Thus, organizations can benefit from the outcomes of these women’s leadership trainings by reexamining the leadership models that currently exist within.
What are Women Leadership Programs?
Women’s leadership trainings provide skill development tools that are generally like gender-neutral trainings. The key difference is that these trainings are focused on creating a space for women to discuss and address the challenges they face together. These trainings empower women to advocate for themselves, negotiate and communicate in male-dominant environments, and learn strategies to overcome workplace barriers.
While women’s leadership trainings help guide individual women, the burden of advancing equity cannot be on these women alone. It is up to organizations to consider reflective strategies in which they are receptive to the participants’ feedback after attending leadership programming. This goes beyond initial support for the implementation of women’s leadership trainings and digs deeper into what actionable measures can be taken to change the culture of the organization where women feel valued and respected.
How do you Include Women in Leadership Roles?
Gender diversity is crucial to including women in leadership roles. According to research conducted by The Rockefeller Foundation and the Global Strategy Group, women hold only 4% of leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies. With the lack of representation in these roles, women in entry-level positions experience an absence of mentors who would be able to support and coach through their careers. It is a disturbing myth that women do not choose to strive for leadership opportunities simply because they do not want to or do not ask for them. These types of messages encourage stereotypes of women as an explanation to why women are not in more leadership roles. It paints a false narrative that the women who have succeeded are the exceptions, and those who have not are at fault by their own failure or lack of motivation.
While self-motivation and hard work is important to an individual’s success, without proper support in the form of career development, equitable pay and treatment, women will continue to face challenges that prevent them from accessing these leadership positions. The “glass ceiling” metaphor refers to the unseen or invisible barriers that prevent a person from advancing beyond a certain level. However, the critique of this glass ceiling is that while these issues may in fact be covert, as a society we are very aware that these challenges exist, but are we taking the necessary actions to break the glass ceiling? It is not enough to be aware, progressive change begins with awareness that fuels action.
What are Women’s Leadership Skills?
Becoming a leader requires far more effort than being granted the position title. We know that effective managers are constantly working on personal and professional development to gain skills and learn how to adapt one’s communication style. Equipping women with the same leadership development skills as men will not only allow them to access more leadership opportunities but to also succeed once in the role. There are generally no differences in the leadership qualities and skills between men and women. All effective leaders need confidence, strong communication skills, have a high emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), understand how to engage in productive conflict and successfully delegate and motivate their employees. Regardless of gender, all leaders should develop these types of skills in the workplace.
Now, more than ever before, women have opportunities to choose the life they want to live. While there are still many challenges to overcome, such as racial bias against non-white women and discrimination against gender fluid individuals, there are far more resources, organizations and support groups that exist today. As we strive for gender equity, we must constantly challenge our own biases and acknowledge that learning and unlearning is a life-long process. To start, organizations and leaders can open the conversation for women to share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences because narratives have a huge impact on the way society is shaped.