Women are still left behind when it comes to advancement in Donna Warrick’s Viewpoint column in The Business Journal: “From glass ceiling to glass cliff, leadership succession for women is too often a mirage.”

Half of Donna’s solution is best practices – assessments with feedback and a commitment to meritocracy.  And the other half is an extra emphasis on the female experience in the workplace that is also needed to demystify and democratize advancement.

Many women have experienced being kept at arm’s length from authentic leadership opportunities. From elementary school on, women get conditioning to be less vocal and assertive in groups. And in the workplace, they are too often overly reserved about their abilities. Men are taught from an early age to proclaim their skills and sometimes exaggerate them for competition’s sake.

Learning leaders can coach women to embrace and articulate their strengths using assessments and feedback.

“The power of women supporting women”

Simply getting women together in a room can make a huge leap in empowerment, connection, and engagement. We do this in our Women in Leadership program at Volvo Group. In a room without men, women feel free to speak up and keep it real about the obstacles women must overcome.

Lack of communication can be a detriment to advancement. Anne Welsh McNulty wrote about this in Harvard Business Review in 2018:

Worse than being snubbed by the woman above me was the lack of communication between women at my level. Of the 50 auditors in my class, five were women. All of us were on different client teams. At the end of my first year, I was shocked and surprised to learn that all four of the other women had quit or been fired — shocked at the outcome, and surprised because we hadn’t talked amongst ourselves enough to understand what was happening. During that year, I’d had difficult experiences with men criticizing me, commenting on my looks, or flatly saying I didn’t deserve to work there — but I had no idea that the other women were having similar challenges. We expected our performance to be judged as objectively as our clients’ books, and we didn’t realize the need to band together until it was too late. Each of us had dealt with those challenges individually, and obviously not all successfully.
– From “Don’t Underestimate the Power of Women Supporting Women at Work”

Locally, women tell us that simply sharing their workplace experiences can be eye opening. And taken a step further, the networking and mentoring that follows is a proven key to advancement. Because nobody – of any gender – gets very high up the ladder without advocates and mentors offering inside information and recommendations for promotions.

One of the most important metrics of our work with any business is a workforce and leadership that are truly representative of the global population. It’s not just being woke. It’s a way to get a more effective organization.