Leading ladies unite: supporting and nurturing female leaders
There’s evidence to show that diversity and equal gender representation leads to better business outcomes. As we look to the future, how can we make sure change brought about by the pandemic sticks? And at the same time, how can female leaders equip themselves with the skills they need?
Over the last decade I’ve been lucky enough to watch female leaders develop first-hand while running our Leading Ladies training courses. It’s wonderful when you see talented people have that moment of realisation about themselves that will help them move forward.
I’m also passionate about supporting structural changes to help women leader in the workplace; especially since the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the gender roles that still exist.
For these reasons, I’ve been fascinated by recent research on in this area, which has also made me reflect on the skills we should be nurturing to help leaders thrive.
Keeping female leadership on the agenda
I always talk about the advantages of diversity in the workplace. In our own equine team we have a perfect mix, including ‘quiet achiever’ Kylie, and playful but intelligent Bart.
Recent research from the BankWest Curtin Economics Centre and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) shows a causal relationship between increasing the share of women in leadership (boards, senior leadership and CEOs) and improvements in company performance.
So, with a case for more female leaders made, how to we ensure change continues to happen?
Commentators have challenged us to keep gender balance on the agenda after the COVID pandemic highlighted the issues facing so-called dual career couples (which now make up 78% of millennials in the US). Many of these were previously viewed as women’s problems (hands up who’s tried finding a quiet spot to work in a house full of children!) Hopefully, it might be an impetus for longer term change, including increased flexibility.
A separate report from the University of Queensland’s AIBE Centre for Gender Equality in the Workplace and the WGEA found that those organisations which were accredited as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality had made it an integral component part of their business practices. This led to positive changes such as a faster reduction of the gender pay gap, and a greater proportion of female managers at all levels. These organisations all had factors in common, such as investing in learning and development for staff around gender equality, measuring and monitoring gender pay gaps, offering flexibility and developing gender targets at all levels.
“This report clearly demonstrates something we have always known – that change will not happen unless workplace leaders, from the CEO down, drive this change,” said Libby Lyons, Director of the WGEA in the report.
Driving change for leading ladies
I really like this idea of leaders driving change. I think one way we can do this on an everyday level is to ensure we are equipped with the right skills and attitude, as are those we are mentoring/supporting. For example:
- Develop your leadership and communication skills. Some people are natural leaders; others end up there almost unintentionally. However, no matter how ‘good’ a leader someone is, they always have something to learn.
Training and development courses are a great idea, helping with skills such as communication (and many such as ours have continued running online during social distancing). I’ve yet to see someone come out of one of ours and not be amazed by what the horses have made them realise and learn. Plus, we have fun and bond with each other!
In addition, there are lots of great free resources out there. I try to use my blog to provide useful leadership tips (in my biased opinion!), as do others.
- Be authentic and be yourself. We all know the term emotional intelligence; it has become something of a buzzword in recent years. However, the crux of the concept is about connecting with people in an authentic manner.
I love watching how accepting our horses are of everyone who walks through the doors once they have reached a point of personal honesty. Horses don’t judge anyone by their appearance or have preconceived ideas about who you are. They do, however, pick up on incongruence between your actions and intentions. People pick up on this too – however, it is hard to tell your boss that something doesn’t make sense or feel quite right. As horses have no agenda, and know nothing about the office politics, they highlight this inconsistency. They work solely on how it feels – they cannot function any other way. And as their feedback is immediate, you know then and there if something isn’t working. To close this loop, as soon as the participants adjust their behaviour, the team moves forward. If we are willing to take on board these leadership lessons, horses really are a leveller that no human can match.
- Have the courage to embrace challenges and respond to change. As I’ve written before, coping with change is an essential leadership skill and one we bring to all our courses, particularly when working with horses.
And more than just coping with change, you may even thrive in the face of a challenge. Many businesses were founded during a recession – like Airbnb and Uber.
- Learn how to discover passion and joy. Be brave enough to embrace your passions and find joy in the work that you do! So much will flow from here.
In our first ever blog, we talked about the traits of an unintentional or natural leader. Leading Edge Professional Development will be delving deeper into this fascinating subject, launching an interview series called Leading Ladies. In this, we will pose a range of important questions to women from all walks of life who we consider to be natural leaders in their own field; whether that be corporate, academic, charity, sport, at home or in the arts. I hope, from this, to pinpoint some unintentional leadership traits in order to inspire and help others. What do you think are some of the qualities of an unintentional leader? Tell us in the comments. And for more information on Leading Edge Life Skills email email@example.com