Welcome to TL;DR (Tracy’s Latest Discussion Recap). We’re keeping you up to date on thought leadership from Tracy Lawrence, CEO & Co-Founder of Chewse. Today’s topic: how you can encourage women in leadership in your company!
Chewse Founder and CEO, Tracy Lawrence, obviously considers female leadership to be a core tenant of Chewse values. But every company can benefit from women in leadership. Better yet, there are easy, tangible ways you can encourage more women in leadership in your company.
In today’s TL;DR, we’ll dive into a recent article Tracy wrote for TalentCulture: Creating an Environment That Encourages Women in Leadership. But first: why having women in leadership is important for your company.
Why women in leadership?
Having women in leadership doesn’t just improve the workplace for women in your company. The reality is, women in leadership actually improve company performance in general. As Tracy writes:
“… Gender diversity has been linked to greater revenue and profitability, [but] companies are failing to put real muscle into achieving it.”
Why? Because gender-diverse companies tend to be open to more perspectives. As a result, they may attempt new market strategies, glean additional insights during leadership discussions, and successfully appeal to a more diverse gender base. In fact, according to the same Gallup study, “Gender-diverse business units in the hospitality company show 19% higher average quarterly net profit ($16,296 vs. $13,702) than less-diverse business units.”
But even companies with good intentions can fall short of their goals for gender diversity. Companies must actively work towards increasing the number of women in leadership. In Tracy’s article, she cites:
“A study by the IBM Institute for Business Value of data from thousands of companies found that even with the best of intentions, women fill only 18% of top leadership roles. Why? It’s largely because 79% of companies have failed to make diversity a priority.”
It’s no longer enough to pay lip service to the value of women in leadership. After all, not only does having women in leadership positions increase your performance today – it sets you up for success tomorrow.
Women in leadership: not just “now”…
Women in leadership positions may help you tap into female consumers or tweak your marketing strategies. But companies with women in leadership positions will also see positive results further down the pipeline, too.
Companies that don’t have many women in leadership positions may comment that there aren’t many qualified women in the company, so fewer women are in a position to become leaders. This might feel like a cop-out sometimes, but it’s actually true – lack of women throughout company structures is one of the largest proponents of reduced women in leadership positions. But, even a few women in leadership positions can change this. In her TalentCulture article, Tracy writes:
“Having women in leadership roles leads to more women at the company, which in turn leads to more female leaders, which then attracts more female applicants — and so on. When junior female employees see women at the top, they feel inspired to strive for great heights too.”
It comes back to the “that could be me” mentality – women in lower positions see women in leadership and believe that could be them one day. The advantages of seeing someone “like you” in a position of power are plentiful. As Tracy notes:
“…Women tend to set more ambitious goals when they talk about them with other women compared with when they reflect on their goals alone.”
Even with the best intentions, your male employees may struggle to motivate women in the same way. That’s why a gender-balanced leadership staff is imperative.
… and not just women!
The thing is – having women in leadership is great for women. But you won’t just attract women as a result of your policies. Modern employees across the board prefer gender-diverse companies and especially companies with women in leadership. Tracy cites:
“Research from the Institute for Public Relations found that nearly half of millennials consider an employer’s diversity and inclusion an important factor in their job searches.”
That’s because diverse leadership can be a sign of other positive values in a company. Companies with diverse leadership have better culture that, in general, appeals to a wide audience of people. If you want to boost culture in your company, check out our recent blog on workplace culture – but know that it starts with employee buy-in. And encouraging women in leadership? Its what modern employees want!
So: How can you encourage women in leadership?
A huge first step is actually wanting to encourage women in leadership in your company – but once you do, there’s still plenty of work to get there. It takes company leader buy-in and, depending on your company, it may even take a slight culture shift.
In fact, according to Tracy, you can’t get there without significant buy-in:
“Research indicates that only companies with a genuine, widespread cultural belief in gender diversity experience these benefits. In other words, companies that embrace gender diversity as a necessity rather than a nice-to-have and that actively encourage women to take on leadership roles have an edge over companies with more passive approaches.”
Try the following strategies and tangible changes to make your company more welcoming to women in leadership.
ONE – Diversity coaching
Diversity coaching is important for all companies – not just companies working to encourage women in leadership. There are many reasons your employees might differ in communication strategies from one another (beyond gender). In fact, one of the largest differences that leaders should take into consideration is personality disposition. Are your employees extroverts that aren’t afraid to share their thoughts? Are you leading a team of introverts that might need to be prompted into speaking up?
Consider leading a diversity coaching training workshop. Teach your leaders to recognize when employees feel unable to speak up. Then, follow up with a training about how to evaluate whether the employee should be supported in person or after the meeting. As Tracy writes:
“Leaders should then decide whether the conversation should happen in public or in private. Sometimes an encouragement to speak up (“Alex, do you have something to say?”) might be the best solution; at other times a discussion about why the employee felt unable to speak is healthier.”
TWO – Mentorship
Though simply having women in leadership positions will encourage other women, establishing mentorship programs will also help all of your employees. Whether you choose to offer women-to-women mentorship programs or open them to the whole company, coaching is a great way to spread the knowledge and the love at your company.
At Chewse, we even developed the Chewse Rising Leaders program. As a small company, we didn’t have that many people who wanted mentorship inside the company, so we opened the program to women internationally.
Female mentorship can also help women at your company recognize when it might be time for them to move forward or challenge their place at your company. As Tracy writes:
“…Women are less likely to apply for jobs or promotions unless they feel 100% qualified. Unfortunately, this means they’re filtering themselves out of jobs they aren’t perfectly aligned with but might actually be great matches for. Men, on the other hand, will give it a shot if they feel they meet 60% of the qualifications.”
THREE – Anonymous feedback
Before we dive into anonymous feedback, a note: face-to-face feedback is important too! By creating a company culture where face-to-face feedback is encouraged and solicited, you’re clarifying to your employees that you take their feedback into consideration and want to have conversations about what they think. This type of culture-building feedback is invaluable.
However, make sure you supplement face-to-face feedback with true anonymous feedback. There may be elements of your company that your employees don’t feel comfortable bringing up. Worse, and more importantly, there may be employees who don’t feel comfortable speaking up. Anonymous feedback doesn’t replace face-to-face feedback – or vice versa. But, as Tracy writes in her TalentCulture article:
“Supplementing that open feedback with anonymous feedback is a great way to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks.
Good leadership is about knowing when to offer which type of feedback opportunity. Either way, the more often you can create these opportunities, the more it will increase company-wide comfort and transparency.”
FOUR – Transparent salaries
We’ve written before about gender diversity in tech and how to be part of the problem, not the solution. Such a topic is really important to Tracy – a female Founder & CEO, in tech, who is also a woman of color. Early on in Chewse’s history, Tracy realized she wasn’t practicing what she preached – women at Chewse were making less than men because they didn’t negotiate as aggressively.
So we tried something few companies had tried, and even fewer were talking about openly – we cut negotiation from our hiring and promotion practice, and made all salaries transparent.
All of them.
In fact, we have an internal spreadsheet with everyone’s salaries, including Tracy’s.
How did we make this happen? We mapped every role and salary to an “output level” based on performance – an A, for example, is an employee straight out of college, whereas a C is an employee that’s consistently meeting the job description. Every role’s salary range is broken into output levels from A to E, and employees know what the salary is for each output level for their given role.
For more information about how we did this, and how you can implement a transparent, performance-based compensation model in your company, read our TL;DR.
Authentic women in leadership
Encouraging women in leadership in your company is good for your employees, good for recruiting, and good for your bottom line. When companies are more diverse, they’re able to perform to a higher standard and attract a wide variety of audiences. That’s because, instead of looking for cookie-cutter employees, diverse companies attract a wider array of talent. In Tracy’s TalentCulture article, she writes:
“If women do try to fit a more masculine mold but that isn’t what they’re naturally like, they can come across as inauthentic because they’re not leaning into their zone of genius. Not only that, but these so-called feminine traits can be leadership superpowers.”
Interested in learning more? Read Tracy’s whole article on TalentCulture.