Unless we act now, today’s lack of female leaders will drastically affect the female leadership pipeline of tomorrow. There will be no funnelling of talent, and no mentoring or sponsoring of younger women, because the senior female leaders required to guide our emerging female trailblazers simply won’t exist.
The lost investment in talent – in smart, savvy, knowledgeable and strong women who are able to make a difference – is astonishing. Yet organisations are continuing to let their female staff walk at the expense of re-recruitment, rather than retaining them.
The disappearing female leader brings about management teams that are devoid of perspective. Without both males and females, decision-making is one-dimensional, and discussions around innovation, new product development, marketing and consumer engagement strategies are gender-siloed.
The reality is that the infamous glass ceiling is still firmly in place, and unless we all collectively engage and take action, it is never going to develop more than a few cracks.
What action is needed?
1. Step out of status quo
Become the leader of an organisation that is willing to deviate from the status quo and challenge the norm when it comes to gender diversity. Become accountable for change, and be willing to collaborate with others to make change happen.
2. Change the attitude of the C-suite
The way the C-suite think, act and behave directly influences more junior people in the organisation. If the C-suite openly support equality within senior management and understand the value of women in those roles, then they are setting an example for the next generation to follow.
3. Speak up
The only way we are going to accelerate the rate of change is to raise our voices and change our actions at the same time. It’s time women, and men, started speaking out about their own terms of employment by asking the hard questions. The whole, “it’s not nice to talk about money” civility needs to be thrown out the window. Have the discussion, talk openly and share. We need to speak out and have courageous conversations that drives the necessary change.
One gender is not effective without the other when it comes to making change happen. Instead of having arguments about inequality, we need to have discussions about equality and collaboration. Leaders need to guide their teams through an uncertain future, which requires them to engage on an unprecedented aggregated level — where thinking bigger than ever before will bring rewards to a collective commercial mind. It’s important to recognise that diversity and difference of opinion is actually a competitive advantage.
5. Own brand YOU
The biggest killer of confidence in business, is when we – as leaders – start to doubt ourselves and our trajectory. If we are to create organisations that we want to work within and that others enjoy being a part of, integrity has to permeate everything. A company must be about more than just the service or the product that is being sold, it has to be about the culture, and that begins with confidence in the leadership of self.
6. Engage with sponsorship
Organisations don’t provide enough mentoring and sponsoring opportunities for younger women coming up through the ranks. Companies need to be more active in their attitude of sponsorship engagement and support each other wholeheartedly through networks in order to create a future pipeline of female leaders. Explore the possibilities of what gender diversity can bring, and how the benefits of a collaborative workplace – one that is well-rounded, well influenced and well distributed – can broaden perspectives and create opportunities that have not yet been tapped into.