Women in Leadership: 3 Steps for Organizational Growth

By Tai Dozier - November 18th, 2016

An interesting trend has been occurring over the last decade of women advancing in the workplace to take executive-level leadership roles. However, only 14.6% are actually employed as executive officers, as reported by the Center for American Progress.  As women continue to climb the leadership ladder, we need to look at why this is happening and how we can continue to foster female career-growth in any industry or leadership position.

In the following article, Colorado State University-Global student, Tai Dozier, highlights the advancement of women in leadership positions and outlines 3 actions necessary to support women’s access to these executive level roles.

woman in executive position leading meeting

Statistics reported by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), show a 47% increase in female-owned businesses from 1972 to 2015. Not only are women making strides in business ownership, but they’re also generating over $200 billion in profit. As more women take advantage of higher education to advance their careers, we have to look at the institutional factors affecting, or preventing them from landing an equal number of leadership roles to that of men.

While many organizations have created company objectives to place women in leadership roles, they’re not properly articulating how the roles will differ for men and women. Many workplaces still emphasize an outdated, male-specific outline of what a leader should look like and how they should act. Judging a female in an executive position by male standards can often result in women not measuring up.

For example, many people think of a leader as someone exhibiting the following qualities: commanding, dominating, authoritative or aggressive. While these qualities are widely accepted in men and often rewarded with leadership positions, those same qualities can be perceived negatively in women. Of course, these could be qualities of a good leader, but so could diplomatic, understanding, teammate, or level-headed. There’s more to becoming a leader than just being given the title and having certain expected personality traits. For anyone to become a leader you need a shift in identity, both how you see yourself and how you project that vision onto others.

How can organizations overcome these biases and emphasize identity in order to increase business growth by effective leadership? The Harvard Business Review suggests the following steps to support women’s access to leadership positions.

1. Educate women and men about “second-generation” gender bias.

Second-generation bias pertains to policies that seem gender neutral because they don’t overtly call out one sex, however, due to cultural norms and organizational structures, they put women at a disadvantage. For example, the lack of female role models in leadership positions tells young women that being female is a liability in leadership. Research shows that organizations likely undervalue or ignore behind-the-scenes work, like building a team or avoiding a crisis; jobs typically done by women. On the contrary, organizations often reward the heroic work usually done by men. In most cultures, masculinity and leadership are closely associated with one another. There is a contrast between the conventional perception of what a woman should be, and the qualities necessary for leadership.

Identifying, discussing, and updating policies and procedures to identify all aspects of potential leaders, rather than only focusing on someone’s image of what a leader should be, is helpful to eradicating archaic biases that prevent women from advancing. As females in the global workplace continue to earn leadership and executive positions, second-generation bias will become less ingrained in young would-be leaders, and current workplace leaders.

2. Create safe “identity workplaces” to support upward mobility.

Past research suggested that some people are born leaders, however, current research shows that leaders can be made. One of the many factors of “making” a leader is offering the opportunity to internalize a leadership identity. To become a leader, you have to believe you’re a leader.

“Identity workplaces” encourage this leadership identity to become reality. Using goal creation, identity workplaces can monitor and facilitate leadership growth. When you establish a goal, you create a sense of purpose, something you can correlate to your values and then provide purposeful action. To ensure that growth is continuous, women need to be given leadership tasks and treated as leaders during everyday activities.

Managers should foster identity workplaces by naming and showcasing leadership qualities in female employees. Together, managers and leaders can set short and long term goals to achieve results that will promote professional development, and encourage women to view themselves as leaders.

3. Anchor the development of women in purpose rather than perception.

Including leaders in organizational oversight or giving them managerial tasks will push the bar in their leadership development. As colleagues and superiors see women taking on leadership responsibilities, their perception of what a woman should be will be diminished by what the woman proves she is capable of doing.

Organizations should create an atmosphere of support to further develop leaders, no matter their sex. Providing leadership coaching programs, creating peer support groups, and setting goals that align with personal and the collective good will advance both the organization and the leader.

There’s no doubt that woman have made significant progress in the workplace over the past four decades, but there still needs to be a more direct and proactive approach to women’s leadership. As organizations begin and continue to invest in the leadership capabilities of women, we will hopefully see a shift in the negative and misguided perceptions of a woman’s expected role in business.

Do you want to hear more about women in leadership?

Colorado State University-Global Campus is proud to sponsor this year’s International Forum for Women in E-learning (IFWE) with our President, Dr. Becky Takeda-Tinker, as the opening keynote speaker. Share ideas, learn about eLearning programs and products, discuss issues, and gain a better understanding of being a successful leader at the IFWE next week.

Follow along on Facebook and Twitter November 30th – December 2nd.

If you’re ready to be a leader in the global business world, consider a bachelor’s or master’s degree in organization leadership from CSU Global. Showcase your leadership skills, knowledge, and real world experience with an accredited degree from a respected institution.

Comments 1

  • It’s great to see that women are taking on more leadership roles. It’s a trend that we need to continue. Leaders can certainly be made if they are given proper guidance and assistance as they develop professionally. We need to get past the perception that women aren’t able to become senior executives and encourage more women to fulfill these positions. Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

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