We are moving leaps and bounds towards parity and there is no better time to foster the growth of ambitious women. Equality will be reached a lot sooner by creating a pathway for leadership at the very beginning.
There is a pathway to leadership, and it starts at the very beginning of our career, from the time we enter the workforce after finishing what can be years of formal education. It feels like there is constant focus on diversity at the top level. But, it’s time to collectively take a step back and be considerate of the pathway to the top.
Right now, we are moving leaps and bounds towards parity. It is time to seize the opportunity to foster the growth of young female leaders at the very beginning of their careers. By creating a pathway at the beginning, we will reach equality a lot sooner.
#1 Focus on diversity at all levels
With so much talk and focus on reaching equality in the workforce, we are doing a lot better to ensure there is more diversity at the executive and board level of big companies. But are we really addressing the root cause of the problem?
Companies and their leadership groups want to do the right thing, and we are seeing a real shift with the implementation of diversity targets and equal pay policies. We are seeing companies appoint more women to executive and board positions. It’s all moving in the right direction, but we aren’t quite there yet.
Unless we are getting women to apply for entry level jobs and first leadership roles at the beginning, we may never truly reach a diverse future. Diversity isn’t just a cultural shift at a c-suite level, it must be something that is lived and breathed throughout the organisation at all levels.
Somebody recently shared with me a quote from Verna Myers,
“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance”.
It is vital to ensure we are really being inclusive throughout entire organisations,instead of simply just trying to hit our Diversity KPI’s at the top level.
#2 We have the tools, let’s use them in more areas
In general terms, we have male and female leaders that together want our world to be equal and for us to reach a perfect point of diversity and parity. A recent McKinsey article published by Kevin Sneader and Lareina Yae covers that while we have made excellent strides when it comes to diversity, we are still 100 years off parity. That is a long wait and it can feel like somewhat of an uphill battle. When I think that my daughter’s own granddaughter might see the day where we are truly equals. We are still generations away!
However, while many companies and employers have the tools in place, these tools focus on achieving diversity only at the very top level of many organisations. I agree with Sneader and Yae. Those tools being used to break the glass ceiling can be redeployed at entry level jobs to ensure that equality is achieved from the very beginning.
If we set the targets early, women will represent organisations equally all the way from the graduate to the chairperson. The organisation’s culture and structure will be influenced by an equal employee voice all the way through. And it can only have a positive trickle-on effect.
#3 Encouragement leads to confidence
So much has been written around the female confidence gap and how to overcome it. While young girls are excelling in our education system, it’s a different story once they enter the workforce. Kitty Kay and Claire Shipman explore this in their book “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know”. They write that being confident is just as important as being competent, and confidence is something that we can learn.
My personal experience was with a female manager in London several years ago now. I spoke to her at length about my choice with my next role within the investment bank I was working for. What she said has always stuck with me and she set me on my path to where I am today. She said I could take the next role within our team, which was a well-trodden path. But if I moved to a project management role, it would be a skill that would set me up for life.
What resulted was this fantastic and daunting opportunity to move out of my comfort zone and work in technology. This was a completely foreign field of expertise I knew nothing about. I had to overcome my concerns and take the risk. And from that I became more confident in my ability. The result? That manager was right, it did ultimately set me up. Not long after I came back to Australia, I used that knowledge and new-found confidence and started loans.com.au!
As senior leaders, we have an opportunity to encourage young women to apply for roles they wouldn’t otherwise apply for. It may not be an immediate leadership role, but they should be encouraged to apply for roles that will set them on the pathway to success. As women we aim to be perfectionists and we won’t apply for roles unless we tick all the ‘required experience’ boxes. We need to give more encouragement to young women to take the risk and put themselves forward for roles that will ultimately lead to a richer career later.
The future is looking up
This is the best part about this moment in time. Leaders, both men and women, are more educated on the challenges we currently face. All they want to do is the right thing. There are enthusiastic young women graduating from our education systems with such a positive outlook and a real readiness to live in an equal world. As more experienced leaders, it’s up to us to foster their growth!