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Nurture Your Female Talent with These 10 Tips

photo: WOCinTech
photo: WOCinTech

photo: WOCinTech

Many companies are trying to do better with their diversity hires and advancement but aren’t that committed to making it happen, as was evident in a recent LinkedIn study which showed that companies are not really doing much to promote diversity in hiring, recruitment and advancement.

Given that women make up half the population, it shouldn’t be hard to advance senior female talent once the company establishes a commitment to it.

Although employers sometimes struggle to hire, advance and nurture their female talent, there are things that companies and managers can do to develop women in high level positions at work.

Melissa Greenwell, an Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of national retailer The Finish Line, Inc., offers ten steps for attaining greater gender balance – most of which carry no monetary cost.

1  Don’t accept that there aren’t enough female candidates for your senior leadership roles.  There may not be as many as you’d like, but they are out there. This may mean looking at people with a different industry perspective or an atypical resume.

2 Increase your pipeline of female talent across the organization.  Keep track of where you recruit, who gets promoted, and who gets stretch assignments so you can push for more gender balance in every area of the business.

3 Take more risks on your female employees.  High-potential women often operate under the radar.  Take a second look at those who aren’t raising a hand but need to be called upon.

4 Create an employment brand that attracts more females and retains the ones you’ve got.  The women you want to recruit take notice of how the company positions itself relative to them and to your customers.  They will also look at whether or not your environment lets people work the way they want to work.

5 Keep your female talent.  Do your practices and programs support women?  Do you consider the real cost of not providing generous family leaves?  Do you have a work-life integration strategy?  Don’t confuse face time with productivity.

6 .Mentor your high-potential female employees:  Every executive in your company should be a mentor to your high-potential staff, and an effective mentoring program demands structure.

7 .Identify and communicate criteria for successful leadership.  You need firm criteria that describe exactly what traits and behaviors are priorities for your firm.  These will include some more frequently exhibited by men (action orientation, risk taking), and some more frequently exhibited by women (visioning, collaborating, intuition).

8 Establish a succession plan.  Any organization needs a succession plan for leadership, and gender balance is an essential component of this plan if you want the best thinking.

9 Measure progress.  Set goals for gender balance in your organization.  Keep the metrics in front of you, and, annually, conduct a comprehensive talent review with your senior leadership team.

10 Communicate all of the above, clearly and often.  Once you have a plan for achieving gender balance, make sure these actions are not a secret.  A well-thought-out communication plan that starts at the top is a must.

Greenwell is also a certified executive coach who helps women and men understand how they can leverage natural strengths to identify and make behavioral changes that help them succeed as senior leaders.

In her upcoming new book, “Money on the Table, she offers suggestions to senior management employees, Greenwell’s own experience watching successful male and female leaders succeed in senior management roles.

These concrete steps include “speak first,” “stop apologizing,” “make time for face-to-face communication,” and “ask for what you want.”

Greenwell warns against treating gender balance as merely part of a larger push for diversity.  “We need to remember that there are only two genders among all of the globe’s seventy-five-plus ethnic cultures; gender diversity cannot be addressed in the same way as ethnic diversity, which is also important,” she writes.

“People are complex, and there are different complexities within the genders.  We need to understand and leverage these differences to develop the best ideas, solutions, and actions to have successful organizations.”

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