Shifting Dynamics at the Executive Level

My husband shared this TED talk with me yesterday from Hanna Rosin, who discusses the shifting dynamics between men and women around the world. During the talk, Ms. Rosin gave excellent reasons why women are advancing professionally, based on the leadership skills needed in a highly skilled, global, service- and creativity-based economy:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Ability to sit still and focus
  3. Communicate openly
  4. Listen to people
  5. Operate in a workplace that is much more fluid than it used to be

What I found fascinating was that while there is great data in terms of the changing demographics, we still have work to do in terms of actually getting more gender diversity at the board and executive levels across corporations. I think we need to follow the recommendations of this McKinsey Quarterly article “Changing companies’ minds about women” which includes quite a few of the approaches we advocate at wHolistic ChangeSM to create a lasting change:

Invisible, unconscious, and in the way: Our analysis further reveals that at every step along the US pipeline, the odds of advancement for men are about twice those for women. And nearly four times as many men as women at large companies make the jump from the executive committee to CEO. <making the case for change>

Changing companies’ minds: the whole organization must change. That’s hard work; it will take years and, potentially, even a generational transition. This goal requires a serious commitment from busy leaders, whose natural tendency is to discuss the issue, create a plan, and hand it off to HR. And it requires real engagement up and down the line, including engagement from women. <creating change agents, establishing a change that lasts, executing the change>

Make it personal: if you’re personally committed, you can catalyze change that will improve not only your company’s treatment of women but also, in all likelihood, its business results. <gaining sponsorship>

Change the conversation: A starting point is making sure enough women are being considered for advancement, to boost the odds that some will get through. Broadening the conversation ensures that high-talent women aren’t “underexposed,” compared with men, as senior executives talk through promotion possibilities. While putting one woman on the promotion slate will not change the discussion, focusing on metrics will. <defining success>

Use data to create transparency and challenge entrenched mind-sets: Most companies collect some data on diversity. Yet few track the results in enough detail to help executives gain a real understanding of what’s going on in their own departments or business units and how their mind-sets may be contributing. Furthermore, many companies track data only at the executive level, not down to the front line. <reporting progress>

Rethink genuine sponsorship: We all value being challenged to make our work better, but many women find that constant questioning drains their confidence and energy. With self-awareness and training, sponsors can learn to adapt their styles to the individual and situation at hand. Effective sponsors are deeply, personally engaged, down to the level of small details, whose importance adds up. <gaining sponsorship>

About Michelle Smeby

Michelle Smeby is CEO of wHolistic Change, Inc. with more than 10 years of experience implementing enterprise solutions at Fortune 100 companies. Michelle specializes in helping corporations deliver transformational change.
This entry was posted in Creating Change Agents, Defining Success, Establishing a Change that Lasts, Executing the Change, Gaining Sponsorship, Making the Case for Change, Reporting Progress and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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