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How to nurture female talent for leadership success

Shot of beautiful smiling female leader standing in front of her team, female talent

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Juliane Sterzl from CoachHub, discusses how companies can nurture their female employees for success in leadership roles.

Juliane is Senior Vice President at CoachHub who has a passion for helping people and loves stepping out of her comfort zone.

Prior to CoachHub, she has worked for LinkedIn and Skillsoft.

female talent

In 2021, the Fortune Global 500 celebrated an all-time high with 23 women CEOs, showcasing progress toward gender diversity in leadership.

However, this achievement was short-lived, as the number fell to a mere 10 just two years later in 2023. The decline highlights the need for organisations to continue developing  their commitment to fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce, especially at the highest levels of leadership.

Identifying systematic barriers

The first hurdle in the path to gender equality in leadership lies in identifying and understanding the systemic barriers that hinder women’s ability to progress. Unconscious bias, deeply ingrained gender stereotypes, and structural impediments have contributed to the decline in female representation at the executive level.

These challenges begin at the start of a woman’s career. While women account for 48% of entry-level hires, they only account for 38% of first-level managers. Women may also find that, depending on their career choice, there are few women role models at the senior level. Without visible examples of successful women in leadership, it can be challenging for other women to see themselves in those positions. This is especially prevalent in STEM careers; however, it is also valid for leadership roles across many other industries.

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Gender bias has also become deeply embedded into workplaces, often formed based on societal and cultural influences that shape individuals’ perspectives without their conscious awareness. These so-called ‘unconscious biases’ can affect hiring decisions, performance reviews and promotion opportunities. Stereotypically male characteristics such as assertiveness and confidence are often associated with successful leadership, while feminine characteristics can be less valued. However, if a woman does not adhere to the female stereotype, she may be considered aggressive and bossy. This means women may be less likely to share ideas, or stand up for themselves at work.

Effective strategies for nurturing female talent

To counter these challenges, organisations should implement a multifaceted approach, with a range of strategies to encourage women into leadership roles. It’s important that these programmes address not only traditional leadership skills, but also the unique challenges and opportunities that women encounter in their professional journeys. Topics such as the art of negotiation, enhancing personal influence in the organisation and matching leadership skills to leadership challenges should be explored. Investing in these initiatives is not only essential for empowering female talent to navigate the corporate landscape, but it can also improve business performance. More than 57% of enterprises agree that gender diversity programmes improve business outcomes.

As part of women’s leadership programmes, organisations can offer digital coaching to those moving through the leadership pipeline. Often women use coaching to work on how to effectively use their skills in the workplace and improve performance. Personalised coaching provides targeted support to female employees, helping them overcome specific challenges and refine the skills necessary for leadership success.

While any highly credentialed coach can be a great match for any employee, it can often be beneficial to have coaches who are more experienced in certain areas. Coaches who are knowledgeable about women in leadership can bring a different understanding of the unique challenges they face. By providing access to coaching resources and fostering a culture that values continuous learning and development, organisations can ensure that female talent is equipped to thrive in leadership positions.

Fostering gender diversity and inclusion at the leadership level is not just a moral obligation – it’s a strategic priority. Implementing these strategies, organisations can contribute to a more diverse and successful future, creating environments where female talent can thrive, and ultimately reverse the decline of women in leadership positions.

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