It was no great surprise to hear the 2012 McKinsey report Women Matter1 say that women are still under-represented at board and leadership levels. This slow-but-steady progress isn’t for want of trying. In fact, the report notes there are more learning and development initiatives aimed specifically at women than ever before.
This increased investment is a result of a clearer-than-ever business case for the advancement of women. It’s vital to solving complex business challenges and increasingly important that company leadership reflects its customer base. The McKinsey report also highlights the link between the leadership behaviours that women tend to adopt more frequently than men, such as collaborative decision making and their approach to problem solving.
Two of the keys to success in gender diversity and women achieving more in the workplace are gaining the highest level of management commitment, and challenging the mindsets of both men and women.
Throughout my career, I’ve been passionate about helping women to succeed in business and breaking down barriers wherever I find them. In fact, women colleagues who were not achieving their potential as quickly as possible were my inspiration for launching JUMP – a programme that nurtures our female business leaders of the future.
JUMP’s focus is getting women to play to their strengths. It motivates middle-level managers to believe that they can achieve more senior roles. Helping them improve and demonstrate their confidence, recognising and developing the leadership skills they already have and then supporting them as they take life events (like having children) in their career stride. The widening and reinforcing of the participant’s network as a result of the program has been fundamental to JUMP’s success and has definitely played a part in some recent high-level promotions.
JUMP is run country-by-country to ensure it is culturally-attuned, covering authentic leadership, helping women ‘own’ the company vision and exploring how they can make the greatest impact. In MEAR, we’re naturally diverse – culturally, geographically and by language, and therefore, inclusivity and connecting across borders is second nature to us – the ideal foundation for improving gender diversity!
I was really excited to hear Cisco CEO John Chambers’ response to reading Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead2. After reading it he sent an internal email to his employees urging them to read Sandberg’s book in the hopes that it would open their eyes to workplace discrimination in the same way it did for him. He said, “…my eyes were opened in new ways and I feel a renewed sense of urgency.”
That’s a sense of urgency we all share – now’s the time to JUMP up and be counted.
1. McKinsey&Company, Women Matter: http://www.mckinsey.com/features/women_matter
2. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/14/sheryl-sandberg-lean-in-men