Friday, 27 March 2015
Women, tomorrow's leaders, today's topic
But secondly, I also want to tell you about the excellent discussion around women as leaders that took place this morning bright and early whith a group of engaged, open minded and enthusiastic professional women, from junior managers all the way to senior directors. Public sector, private sector, smes and large companies, it was a really inclusive mix. Perhaps it helped that fresh coffee and croissants flowed freely around the tables, but I promise you not a single bleary eye was spotted at 7.30 am!
The breakfast was meant to introduce the newly launched 'Today's Women - Tomorrow's Leaders' programme to the audience, but more importantly I wanted to gauge interest, engagement with the topic and needs. Once I opened the flood gate there was no looking back...
Women talked about their desire to climb the career ladder, impact others, be leaders not only in the professional environment but in their lives. Many talked about the need to develop a tool-kit, to grow their 'leadership ammunitions' in order to achieve the desirable outcomes:
-Establishing a mentoring relationship
-Understanding how to navigate the corridors of power
-Developing influencing and persuading skills
-Raising their own profile.
Luckily these are all areas that the programme is going to address, which were chosen on the basis of a decade of personal experience working with women as well as available research. But it was interesting to see that once again, never mind the sector, background and to some extent even the level of seniority, these are the gaps women feel continuously challenged by and in need of addressing.
The case for more diversity across all levels and more specifically in the boardroom was also widely discussed. One lady from a large company commented that ultimately, people on the ground still struggle with the business case - even when they accept it as mandated from above. That really made me think that even when the senior management is enlightened there is still a huge role to be played by Human Resource, in educating advocating and disseminating the information in a proactive and dynamic way, adapted to different contexts but ultimately in a way that demonstrate tangible values and benefits. To what extent this is happening (effectively) it remains an open question, but my gut feeling tells me it is the minority of cases.
But what about the women themselves, asked a senior University colleague in attendance. Are we not in a way 'our own worst enemies' at times, by not raising our hands, expressing our needs, being more assertive?
Yes indeed, I could not agree more, but if the gaps are those highlighted above, this becomes a meaningless loop. So let's join professional women networking groups, let's identify a mentor and even a sponsor, let's attend gender specific leadership courses, let's 'raise our heads above the parapet' in order to achieve our potential! We may be surprised how much we can obtain simply by asking for it clearly.
I cannot wait to continue the discussion and the exploration of all these topics when the programme starts this coming May. If the women who attended today are anything to go by, it will be an inspiring journey.