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Fostering female leadership in the workplace

Fostering female leadership in the workplace

15 Sep by Deborah Wilson

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With the National Summit on Women’s Safety 2021 taking place recently, it is time for every single one of us to play a role in ensuring equality for women across all life domains. With research showing that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work (that’s an estimated 44 years based on full-time hours), fostering female leadership in the workplace is crucial to our larger conversations about equality. It’s also important to note that as younger generations are almost certain to be working longer than previous generations, that 90,000 hours is likely to grow in time. With that said, I’d like to share five tangible ways that we can foster female leadership in the workplace. 

Address the elephant in the room — the pay gap

According to the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the country’s national gender pay gap is 14.2% at the time of writing. By industry, the pay gap is highest in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services. If you are a leader in an organisation, run the wage numbers and adjust any salary disparities that are evident.  Equal pay for equal work should be the expectation, not the exception. As for female employees, address any concerns you have directly with whoever you report to and if required and it’s possible, keep an open mind about moving to another organisation to gain a salary increase. This is not ideal but sadly, in some cases, it’s necessary. If you are in a leadership role, be aware that pay inequality between team members increases the chances of losing quality people and experience.

Be flexible with work hours and leave wherever possible

COVID-19 and its impacts means we have become more adaptable than ever before. Think about all of the teleconference calls, the lockdowns and so on… while home schooling or caring for loved ones in some cases. Take a look at your policies around caregiving and parental leave and be as flexible as possible when it comes to remote working and allowing staff to adjust their work hours as needed. By giving a little bit extra where possible, you’ll find that people will go above and beyond as their way of saying, “Thank you.” This has certainly been my experience throughout my time in leadership positions.

Diversity across the board matters

Diversity is about a lot more than gender. Ensuring female representation among your workforce is one element. When recruiting, actively seek out people with different opinions, those from different social and ethnic backgrounds and so on. Women and diverse communities bring a range of perspectives and will make for a richer workplace environment. And don’t forget to take a good hard look at diversity in leadership positions right across your organisation — from day-to-day leaders to the board if your organisation is governed by a board.

Seek to understand your people

In my experience, men and women typically have different ways of being. And while this is a generalisation, it does hold true most of the time. Make sure that all of your employees have supportive mentors they can reach out to. If you feel your organisation needs to invest in mentorship programs, do so. At OnTalent, we write mentoring programs for clients, while also engaging in our own mentoring and reverse mentoring initiatives internally. Recently, as the most mature person in the office, I was paired with our youngest team member and we both came away with valuable takeaways. I learned more about social media and my mentee learned more about self-confidence. It was a win-win!

Above all else, remember that your team is made up of people. Seek to understand what makes them tick — how do they best receive feedback? Are they interested in up-skilling or in other areas of the business? What is going on in their personal world that may impact their work (without overstepping personal boundaries)? The best leaders are great communicators first and foremost.

Encourage your team to claim credit for a job well done

As a woman who has been in a leadership role for most of my life, I’m aware that women, especially younger women, are not encouraged to promote themselves. 

Big headed
Arrogant
Over-confident

These few words come to mind when I ask women why they struggle to claim credit for their work. If you are a leader, encourage your team to accept praise. And if you are a female in the workplace, know that accepting praise may feel uncomfortable initially but it’s absolutely necessary in order for you to own your worth. Go easy on yourself if this is a struggle for you. You are likely contending with a number of years of conditioning.

Most importantly, remember that we all have a role to play in fostering female leadership in the workplace. “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” There’s a reason this mantra has become such a go-to when talking about our grandest dreams. Together, we can create change.

Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader and a Career Strategist. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching and career transitions, mentoring and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals while supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose. Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746.