Empowering women in the workplace – time for a reboot

Feb 28, 2020

There are many ways companies can ensure women achieve success and advancement. Louise Molloy suggests a more in-depth approach that educates managers and benefits women.

Over my career, I’ve coached many talented, committed and ambitious women. In doing so, I’ve developed a theory that I passionately believe in how we can empower women to achieve more. While I don’t have all the answers, I’m making the case for a change in how we support women in companies – not just providing more training or giving maternity leave but listening to their needs and intentionally creating opportunities for them.

Here’s my recipe for the support reboot.

Overhaul induction day

From day one, I challenge companies to raise awareness with young female colleagues that their career journey may be different to their male colleagues. Reflection on breaks in service and the impact on promotion, role continuity, profiling, and branding should be considered. This issue is not exclusively female – it can be open to all. It’s the awareness of the issue and the consideration of how to plan for this that’s important

Strategic competency development

Make it clear to female colleagues what competencies must be developed to achieve a management role and show how they can seize opportunities to develop them.

Challenge all managers of young female staff

We must challenge managers to really advocate for, sponsor and mentor female colleagues to build confidence and profile. Ensure these managers get unconscious bias training to bring awareness of the impact of their attitudes and behaviours on their female reports.

Project allocation 

Companies need to hold themselves to account on how projects are allocated and, assuming equal abilities, ensure an even distribution across men and women. Income-generating projects are the fastest and highest-profile way to position for promotion – tracking the numbers and holding people to account ensures these opportunities are presented to everyone.

More frequent role rotation 

By rotating young women into different roles, it not only allows them to build their profile within the company but it raises awareness about different leadership styles and ways of working, exposing them to paths that could lead to advancement.

Feedback is important

Provide training for senior colleagues on how to give honest, constructive, timely feedback to younger female staff. Only with honest feedback on their performance can women really progress.

Pre- and post-maternity support

There’s great progress being made in terms of maternity support, but there is more to do to support women at this vulnerable and physically challenging time when identity and perspective can be in flight. 

Sharing 

I’ve witnessed stories of ‘having to work’ on maternity leave, working through miscarriages, IVF and struggling through menopause – and that’s just the women. Men have their own stories of struggle, too. I’m not advocating we let it all out, but I am advocating that we surface some of the wider challenges that people and, particularly, women face and their stories of how they get through it.

Only by making it OK to have a circuitous career path, never writing someone off, working hard to include everyone, dealing in facts and dismissing assumptions and labels about people will we really empower women. Women are not victims; they don’t need to be rescued. What they do need is help to frame the landscape in which they operate and guidance on how best to navigate it from people who did it before them.

Louise Molloy is Director of Luminosity Consulting & Coaching.