Business Tips

How to Nurture Women Talent At Work

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

This month is Women’s History Month. It’s a time to celebrate great women in history and reflect on how far women have come in society, work, entertainment, tech, media and many other industries.

It’s also a time to think about ways we can continue to advance women,.

In usiness, 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 LinkedIn study which showed that companies are not really doing too 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 women talent once the company establishes a commitment to it.

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

Melissa Greenwell, former Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of national retailer The Finish Line, Inc, offered ten steps for attaining greater balance among the various genders – most of which carry no monetary cost.

1.  Don’t accept that there aren’t enough women 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 women talent across the organization.  Keep track of where you recruit, who gets promoted, and who gets stretch assignments so you can push for more balance among genders 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 women 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 existing talent of women.  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.

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 balance of genders 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.”

Good luck, employers!