Last month was Women’s History Month, and as usual women’s accomplishments received the attention and praise they rightly deserve. However, now that the month is over, I am reminded of a line from a not-so-well-known Christmas song: “the spirit of Christmas is not the things you do at Christmas time, but the Christmas things you do all year through.”
For the spirit of Women’s History Month to solidly take hold, it is imperative to develop female talent throughout the year and throughout the corporate landscape in organizations of all sizes and across all industries.
4 Ways to provoke the spirit of Women’s History Month all year long
- Create a consciously inclusive environment that supports managers supporting women
Many of the corporate attitudes and behaviors that stymie the advancement of women are ingrained in a culture that goes back over a hundred years. As a result, attention needs to be paid to providing managers with tools and strategies that will help them become consciously inclusive. For example, CEOs and executive leadership need to offer clear, specific guidelines: on how managers can provide the same career advancing feedback to women as they do to men; on how managers can ensure that women are tapped for important stretch assignments; and on how they can help women increase their corporate wide visibility.
- Provide women with opportunities to develop career advancing business skills
While programs for the development of female talent are on the rise, so is the evidence that programs alone are not enough to achieve gender parity. In order to have more women at their highest corporate levels, organizations need to accept that these solutions are only a piece of a sustainable female development strategy. Success lies in providing on-going, on-the-job opportunities for women to advance their careers. Success lies in guiding women on how to find and foster the right mentors, sponsors and networks. Success lies in helping women realize that hard work alone is not the key to success. And, it lies in showing them that the biggest risk often lies in being risk averse.
- Hold managers accountable for developing and advancing women
Being a manager in today’s complex business environment is like being in a pressure cooker of handling ever-changing issues and responsibilities. So, it is hardly surprising that the areas that receive the most focus and attention are the ones for which managers are measured and held accountable. Currently, in most organizations, there are no metrics for measuring managerial efforts in the hiring, retention, development and advancement of female talent. That has to change. Metrics need to be in place which give managers specific goals to be met and ones against which they are held accountable.
- Help women understand how to navigate the organization for their own success
In my more than 24 years of experience in the area of developing female talent, I have found that without women understanding how to forge their own corporate success, there is no success. Women must realize that no one is more vested in their careers then they are. They must actively and intentionally develop career advancing relationships; and be open to the advice they receive. They need to acknowledge that there are attitudes and behaviors in themselves they will need to assess in order to advance. They must look at ways to align their efforts with over-all corporate goals. They have to be more willing to step up and be heard, even when it may be uncomfortable. In short, upping the learning curve of women themselves on organizational dynamics must be part of every developmental strategy.
Hopefully by next year’s Women’s History Month, we will have made progress in these four areas. Maya Angelou put it very well: “Nothing succeeds like success. Get a little success, and then get a little more.”