When Annie Lenox addressed business leaders on the centenary of International Women’s Day on 8 March, 2011, she asked all the feminists to stand. The room’s response was stillness, few women stood and supported ‘feminism’. It seems it is something which UK female business leaders seek to disassociate themselves from.
Arguably in business you want to be seen as equal, not singled out or held back because you are a woman. Sadly male employees are still leading the way in personal development and career progression, with little support given to younger women to climb the career ladder. Overlooking true potential and taking a back seat to male colleagues is a common trait.
I believe that realising the true potential of female leadership and helping to develop talent relies on strong support internally from senior women, who must take the responsibility to hold the door open for their colleagues.
Top tips for developing talent:
Be a sponsor – Seek to sponsor female talent. This might be at work or in your social network or family. Many fathers have found that it wasn’t until they had a daughter that their interest in developing female leaders was sparked. Be aware of the women around you who would benefit from your mentorship or sponsorship.
Give feedback – Offer the emerging female talent feedback. Be particularly attuned to when they might be overly apologetic or give their power away. Share with them the impact that this has on their capacity to influence and encourage them to be stronger with their convictions.
Encourage authenticity – Let the female talent develop their ‘own’ leadership style. Emerging female talent will often believe they have to take on the characteristics of the dominant culture, which will often be male. Encourage political astuteness, but not to the detriment of young talent losing the essence of themselves.
Spot Strengths – Take a note of the things that emerging females do well and support them to expose their strengths. Early in our careers we often can get bogged down ‘gap filling’, focusing on weaknesses. Although critical areas for development shouldn’t be ignored, this shouldn’t be to the detriment of excelling the development of strengths.
Push – Women typically want to make sure they have developed all the required skills before putting themselves forward for the next challenge. Try to push and nudge the women around you to take risks and seek new career opportunities before they are fully ready. Taking people to a developmental edge (with mentoring and support) is when they will truly grow as leaders.
Nicky Garcea is from people management consultancy, Capp