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Why Too Many Women’s Leadership Initiatives Fail

Here are three actionable tips to keep high-potential women from leaking through the leadership pipeline at your organization

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From mentorship programs for high-potential women to women’s leadership development conferences that bring women from different teams and locations together to connect and grow, many companies have made it a priority to address the dearth of corporate women’s leadership.

Women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force and 2020 has set a record for women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, but most U.S. companies are struggling when it comes to their women’s leadership development initiatives. Plus, many organizations that have been hurt by the current health and economic crisis have yet to use their initiatives to address how to support  who are tasked with working from home while caring for children who are no longer in school or child-care.

According to a 2020 brief by UN Women, while women “are at the helm of institutions carrying out effective and inclusive COVID-19 responses, from the highest levels of decision-making to frontline service delivery,” women are still underrepresented in too many decision-making forums.

For organizations to truly champion their women from recruitment to senior leadership, and every step in between, it’s critical to address the following blind spots to ensure that new or existing women’s leadership initiatives meet the real needs of women employees and set them up for long-term success.

1. Begin with a Corporate Gender Responsibility plan

Corporate Gender Responsibility (CGR) is a company’s ability to create and sustain a culture and brand that protects and empowers female employees, board members, customers, and community members. One of the unintended consequences of the Me Too movement is that many organizations have prioritized the protection part of CGR over the  one. As a result, organizations often have better sexual harassment prevention than they did several years ago, but they haven’t focused on how to cultivate more women leaders and prevent women during their childbearing years from leaking out of their leadership pipelines. By beginning with CGR, organizations look at women’s experiences and how to improve them from recruitment, hiring, and onboarding to management, ongoing development, and advancement.

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