Female leadership during COVID-19 demonstrates why organizations need to build pipelines of future female leaders.
I was watching the nightly news with my daughter when she noted with pride that many of the Chief Medical Officers in Canada speaking at regular COVID-19 press conferences are women. These leaders have become household names and the face of Canada’s response to the Coronavirus. These Chief Medical Officers exemplify the contribution of female leaders. How can companies ensure that they too are building a pipeline of female leaders?
These leaders have been lauded for providing calm leadership and transparent communication during a time of uncertainty. They reinforce the importance of gender diversity in leadership roles to all organizations by:
• Representing stakeholders. Female leaders are critical to ensuring that an organization reflects the voice of its employees, customers, and communities. Female leaders bring perspectives that are different than their male counterparts and deserve to be heard.
• Positive impact on corporate culture. Strong female presence on leadership teams fosters inclusive corporate cultures. A McKinsey research study found that women leaders tended to apply five of nine important leadership attributes more than men to improve organizational performance: inspiration, participative decision making, setting expectations and rewards, people development and role modeling.
• Demonstrating commitment to diversity inclusion and equity. Research shows that diverse teams contribute to innovation to drive an organization’s success.
How can companies build a pipeline of future female leaders?
• Commitment from Leadership. The tone from the top is critical in promoting an inclusive culture and the presence of female leaders. Diversity and inclusion must be a priority of the Board and senior management.
• Setting targets and holding leaders accountable. Our clients that have achieved the most impressive results in diversity and inclusion have set targets and held leaders accountable. To ensure a balance of female executives in the future, it is critical that the company is hiring female candidates and ensuring the development and promotion of women at every level.
• Mentorship and sponsorship. Programs designed to support women at each stage of their careers. These sponsorships should ensure that female leaders have advocates who are promoting their visibility.
• Driving an inclusive recruiting process. Ensure managers are considering diverse slates for all hiring and promotion decisions. When the requirements defined at the outset result in too narrow a pool, consider modifying the requirements to broaden the pool to include high potential female candidates who can be groomed to step into the role.
• Build the company’s brand as an employer of choice. Female candidates seek to join organizations that have high representation of senior female leaders. By communicating the company’s successes with gender diversity, the company will become sought out and create a virtuous circle.
I appreciate how these Chief Medical Officers have inspired my daughter and it reinforces the importance of ensuring women are equally represented at leadership levels.
A couple of interesting articles: “Begin with Trust”, Harvard Business Review May-June 2020 and “When Women Lead, Workplaces Should Listen”, McKinsey & Company December 2019