Leadership development of women executives

Published on March 4, 2014 Reviewed on July 31, 2016   38 min
0:00
Hello, and welcome to this talk on Leadership Development of Women Executives. My name is Monique Valcour, and I am Professor of Management at EDHEC Business School in Nice, France.
0:12
Here's what we'll cover in this talk. First of all, why is a focus on women's leadership development important? What is the business case that we can use to help get people on board and embrace the importance of fostering women's leadership development within companies? Second, what do we know from research about the careers of women leaders? What sorts of barriers do they face that make their careers more challenging than those of men? Third, what strategies and solutions can we implement both for individual women who are looking to advance to positions of senior leadership and for promoting gender equity and broad-based female leadership development within companies?
0:57
Why do we need to focus on women's leadership development? Well, does this sound familiar to you? "Just give it time; not yet, but soon; when women get the right education, the right training, the right work experience, and the right aspirations to succeed at the highest levels of business, then we'll see parity." That comment was made in a report from Catalyst. And what the report reveals is that, at this stage, women are entering business education, university education, and the entry level of managerial careers at rates equivalent to or even superior to those of men. At this point in time, based upon historical movement of women into managerial careers at the entry level, we should have seen a higher proportion of senior level managers being women. So clearly, there are some barriers that continue to exist that require a concentrated focus on both developing women and on increasing gender equity within corporations.
2:06
To give you a visual metaphor for this phenomenon, let's think about a pipeline. "Just waiting" isn't working because the pipeline is broken. Women are entering the pipeline along with men, but there are breaks of various kinds and at different points along the advancement pipeline which the valuable human capital represented by women is leaking out. The leaky pipeline produces two unfortunate results. First, many highly skilled women are blocked from reaching their potential. And second, the leadership pool that emerges at the top of the pipeline is less diverse and, therefore, generally less effective than companies would expect based on the quality of human capital that enters the pipeline.
2:49
Let's briefly review the business case for committing time, resources, and attentional focus towards developing women leaders. First of all, research is providing a growing body of evidence that companies with the highest proportion of women on their top management teams have better financial performance than companies with a low proportion of women on their top management teams. Beyond the bottom line, however, there are many other ways in which having strong representation of women among a company's leadership helps the firm. Research has shown that firms with many women leaders do better in terms of innovation, recruitment of the most desirable candidates, employee retention, training and career development, and employee engagement, all of which affect the firm's overall effectiveness and good functioning as well as its financials.
3:40
Now, let's look a little more closely at how gender-diverse leadership helps to produce these positive outcomes. First, more innovative problem-solving results from the greater variety in leaders' backgrounds, perspectives, experiences, and ways of thinking. In making important decisions, this diversity serves to supply more alternatives for consideration. It leads management teams to consider alternatives more thoroughly and from more viewpoints, and thereby, yields more innovative decisions that are based on a greater pool of knowledge and insight. I have observed the same thing in my own executive education classes. We have richer and more productive conversations in courses where women are well-represented than in those that are comprised primarily of men. Second, firms with more women in top leadership positions have a greater ability to understand their markets and to connect with valuable customer segments. For example, marketing research has shown that women control 80% of consumer spending decisions on everything from food, clothing, and household goods to vacation travel, cars, and real estate. Clearly then, any firm that markets its products or services to the public needs to have leaders who understand the desires and purchasing habits of female consumers. Many consumers of business-to-business goods and services also prefer to purchase from suppliers that have gender-diverse leadership.
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Leadership development of women executives

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