When I finished writing my book, The Politics of Promotion, which provides a road map for women to get ahead in the workplace, I was curious how many women actually step beyond their comfort zone and make a commitment to their ambition and career. Many women state they have leadership aspirations, but do they follow through? And if not, why? I wanted to know more.
I started to do research on the subject of women and ambition and was pleasantly surprised to discover that 74% of the 615 professional women surveyed self-identified as very or extremely ambitious. That’s a huge number! And as I thought about it more, I realized that given this large percentage of high achieving women, why haven’t we seen more progress in the gender gap in leadership? What’s the disconnect? What happens to these ambitious women? Lost Leaders in the Pipeline: Capitalizing on Women’s Ambition to Offset the Future Leadership Shortage, reveals ambition decreases, not because women want to stay home or not work anymore, but because of a lack of effective support over the span of their careers.
Indeed, the advancement of women to leadership is not straightforward. Companies that have embraced the business case for diversity are challenged to create programs that will support female talent. These firms are questioning why their initiatives fail to achieve desired results.
The answer is simple. Companies don’t ask and therefore don’t understand what the women want and need to be successful over time. They make assumptions that lead them to create or design programs that have little or no effect on the retention and promotion of top female talent.
My co-author Lisa Mainiero and myself, suggest organizations need:
Strong C-suite support for gender diversity along with programs. Survey respondents reported a lack of manager support diminishes their ambition and advancement.
A custom assessment of what high potential women want and need for career support.
Early career pathing before women have children in their thirties/early forties to build leadership experience on the line.
Non-linear career paths where women can ramp on and off to facilitate family issues.
Acceptance that a “work until you drop” attitude is not sustainable for women or men.
The leadership shortage is expected to crest in 2025. Rather than expend resources to attract and retain new female talent, we believe organizations need to adapt their gender diversity programs and reshape their corporate culture to leverage the leaders in their existing pipelines. Future leaders who have the ambition and skills to succeed are sitting right there in the pipeline and because companies fail to understand what these high potential women need to sustain and nurture their ambition, they are losing top talent every day.
Press release: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/09/prweb13697440.htm
To read the full report, visit http://womenssuccesscoaching.com/wp-content/themes/bonnie-marcus/images/lost_leaders_in_the_pipeline_09_2016.pdf