Harriette Schumacher, a certified executive coach, women’s leadership development expert, and the CEO of Big Leap Leadership asks “is developing and promoting female leaders a priority in your company?” If your answer is yes that’s awesome! But know that the road you have to carve will be a long one.

Below Harriette has put together a few strategies to help leaders and companies on this journey to build a strong pipeline of female leaders

  1. Disrupt the denial about the unique challenges women face.

Many organizations are in denial that gender inequality still exists. It’s important that you and your organization get clear on the realities that women are facing today and the barriers that are preventing women from advancing their careers.

Women speak of these challenges daily, including:

  • Being treated equally
    From being held to a higher standard than their male counterparts, to facing persistent gender stereotypes, women feel systematically placed on an uneven playing field.
  • Advocating on their own behalf
    Ambition in men is considered a sign of strength, but women cannot rely on their ambition being perceived as a positive attribute. Many women struggle with signing their praises, and spend too much time working hard hoping someone else will notice.
  • Trusting their own voices
    Women have to do so much work to build the confidence to express their ideas. Many women play small, speak last (if at all), and hold back their opinions out of fear and self-doubt.
  • Building alliances
    Men learn to “play the game” through long standing business conventions that help them build alliances and influence others. Women may need to find alternate routes to building mutually beneficial alliances and strategic relationships. Women need allies to help them advance their careers.
  • Impostor syndrome
    When faced with systemic gender bias and inequality, women often have difficulty forming an accurate self-assessment, a situation also called “impostor syndrome,” which can interfere with their ability to stand confidently in their accomplishments. Women consistently rate themselves as ineffective leaders, when their peers rank them as highly effective.

2.  Let women choose. So many women indicate that their careers have been built by default and not by design. Women are craving intentional, purposeful careers. As a coach, Harriette helps women develop their power to choose by helping them:

  • Exert greater influence over the choices they make.
  • Take the lead in shaping conversations about their career.
  • Take greater ownership over their career choices.
  • Create a personal leadership development strategy.

3.  Transform systems and challenge assumptions.  Look for ways that unconscious bias in the organization affects opportunities for women. Make gender equality at work a goal. Ask, rather than assume what women want from work. Have conversations about equality.

4.  Invest in a women-only leadership development experience.  A female-only program doesn’t reflect the everyday world of work — and that’s a good thing. Women learning together with the support of a leadership development program can produce incredible results for women and for your organization.

5.  Leverage the power of networks. The right relationships and ties are an asset in getting access to information, earning promotions, and gaining opportunities.

Women need networks and trusted partners to help them advance their careers. Women need mentors, sponsors, advocates and coaches.

But the question remains…do you know what your next steps are? No? Then let’s talk.