On May 1st, WOMEN Unlimited hosted a Showcase in New York City. Our goal was to do exactly that: showcase best practices for the development and advancement of female talent, while giving participants a hands-on sense of how the WOMEN Unlimited approach accomplishes that goal.
The Showcase brought together an impressive group of senior level leaders, focused on diversity and inclusion. They represented Fortune 500 companies including American Express, Bayer, Prudential, CVS Health and Novartis Pharmaceuticals. The event featured a robust discussion of corporate needs for increasing parity and demonstrations of the WOMEN Unlimited approach of Mentoring, Education and Networking, which has been a mainstay for the growth and development of over 12,500 women from 200 leading corporations.
Dr. Milana Hogan, Chief Legal Recruiting & Professional Development Officer at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, shared her research: “Grit, The Secret to Advancement” which explores how “grit” and a “growth mindset” influence the advancement of women in big law firms. Showcase attendees indicated that much of Dr. Hogan’s research was applicable to their organizations.
The Showcase emphasized the importance of developing women leaders at all key inflection points: early career, mid-level and senior executives, highlighting the specific challenges and opportunities at each stage and approaches for addressing them.
Early career women
Early career women are the emerging talent that spell the future of their organizations. In our discussion of developing this talent, several Showcase participants shared that their organizations are focused on changing a disturbing metric. Entry-level women are 18% less likely to be promoted than their male peers, creating a major disparity in the talent pipeline. If early-career women were promoted at the same rate as men, the number of Senior Vice President and C-Suite women would more than double.
In order to improve these numbers, women must understand early in their careers how to navigate and impact their organizations. They must look beyond just doing a good job and
- become agile learners
- build career-fostering relationships
- develop sophisticated communication skills
- learn the business
- think innovatively
- transition from individual contributor to impactful manager
These are the developmental areas on which participants in IMpower, our program for early career women, focus and which we highlighted and demonstrated for our Showcase attendees.
We see it all the time. Mid-career women are often under-informed about the importance of shifting from working hard to being strategic leaders and so, do not create the developmental relationships needed for advancement. It’s a major stumbling block and one we address throughout LEAD, our year-long program for mid-career women. We shared with our Showcase attendees, the Rules for Success, which serve as a foundation of sustained development for the mid-career women:
- Know the Rules
- Assess Your Impact
- Don’t do it Alone
- Manage Work, Lead People
- Look Like a Leader
- Think Excellence, not Perfection
- Play Well with Others
- Take Risks, Make Decisions
- Seed for the Future
- Enjoy the Game
By engaging both participants and their managers in the development process, the lessons learned and strategies developed from these Rules are immediately adaptable to the work environment. While the WOMEN Unlimited program participant is the main beneficiary on this leadership journey, managers significantly grow and develop along with the women they are sponsoring.
Senior Women Executives
Senior men leaders far outnumber women. Yet each of the companies represented at the Showcase were focused on bringing more females into executive leadership positions. That’s where WOMEN Unlimited’s The FEW (Forums for Executive Women) comes in. Showcase attendees received an overview of this exclusive program and how it strengthens the success and impact of senior female executives. The FEW emphasizes dialog and discussion about frequently-voiced concerns including:
- How do I deal with the visibility of a senior role?
- How do I navigate my career over the next 10 years?
- What are the unwritten rules I need to understand?
- How do I move from functional leadership to enterprise leadership?
- How do I become more intentional about my power?
Energetic participant engagement and feedback
Showcase attendees told us that they saw these gender parity strategies as “a great way to positively position women in the workplace and create greater corporate impact.” One attendee described it as “a call to action for us.” Another pointed out that: “this presentation and discussion would be impactful in our organization.” Another summed it up this way: “I know my next steps now.”
We’re planning another Showcase this fall in San Francisco. If you’d like to learn more about it or about WOMEN Unlimited’s strategy for developing female talent, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Rosina L. Racioppi
President & CEO
WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.