By Kavita Ryali, Product Evangelist & Advisor, Numly™ Inc.

My very first recollection of the word “Allies” was back in middle school.  It was in a school debate in a Simulated United Nations Council as an inquisitive 12-year-old that I understood the true power of Allyship for nations. A simple meaning that I tacitly derived was a group of nations in helpful association, called treaties, with another group of nations. What I learnt in the process was that the power of “Allied” nations changes the course of how countries work with each other, in socio-political environments, influence economic growth and overcome the threat of war. All pretty darn good Super Powers I must say!

Being All-In with Allyship 

Workplaces today across geographies, cultures, and economic and social influences are no less of a representation of a so called Simulated United Nations. The power in “Allyship” today to educate, unite, help and grow individuals goes way beyond in every macro level of personal and professional relationships. It is showing up and uplifting colleagues, mentees, friends, acquaintances of underrepresented groups in an empathic and educated way. We see more and more “Allyship” being a crucial part both inside and outside of our working institutions. Building a diverse and creative workplace is a flagship priority for enterprises to nurture all possible inclusive behaviors. 

Know Your Allies

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goes across professed and non-professed groups in terms of gender, race, and sexual orientation. Supporting people with accessibility needs, supporting women, supporting people of color, and supporting the LGBTQ community. Much less traversed but I would even include the “good guys” aka men who form strong allies and take intentional unbiased action towards diversity, inclusion and advocacy for these groups.

The Y factor for Women Leaders 

In her acceptance speech, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris made a request of America’s children. “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities, and to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: Dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before.”

Per a Research Study from Penn Law we see a widespread pattern of how women face criticism and various detractors to their growth.

  • 58% of the 52 women interviewed reported having been criticized for being soft spoken or “not assertive enough,” which is very subjective;
  • 54% indicated they have been hesitant to take on leadership roles because of criticism of their behavior; and
  • 71% said they had been reluctant to speak up or speak frequently in meetings or group settings because of criticism of their behavior.

The effectual journey and success of Kamala Harris as the first woman of color, biracial Black-Indian woman being nominated by a major party for the vice presidency is a marker of major gender and racial progress in U.S. society. It is testimony to the fact that women of all backgrounds have accomplished important outcomes and many leadings despite hostile or biased workplace settings. 

Allyship is a significant factor in successful culture change and build the mindset of grit and resilience in women in tech and in multiple male dominated industries. It’s a weighty catalyst that empowers women to hold their fort, rally their teams and drive change and growth for their respective organizations. Allyship leans in to the culture change, to create and maintain an inclusive environment. We NEED our Allied counterparts as trusted partners to ensure we are presented with equal opportunities and in turn erasing some of the factors as to why women are losing interest in certain careers such as STEM. Allyship can open doors, broaden networks and advocate for female emerging leaders.

Power up your Y Factors

In my quest for tapping into what makes Allyship work for women, here are the Y factor aka power skills that can transform women’s workplace and professional experiences.  In my earlier blog, I share what is the Y factor and how multiple women shared their transformation stories towards their growth and success. 

Here are 5 ways you can take intentional inclusive actions and take advantage of allyship, form allies in systemic improvements and gaining the power skills to go with it. 

  1. Being Self Aware: Train on Soft skills on Self-Management that make you aware and empower you to gain confidence, understand your stress factors, willingness to change and build personal credibility. These have demonstrated how you can understand your own strengths, weaknesses and seek help in coaching and mentorship allies. 
  2. Understanding Unconscious Bias: It is not enough to just be self-aware but also understand factors that cause inequities in workplaces. Inequities in not overt actions of unacceptable behavior but also in subtle ways of unconscious bias. For example, female leaders, particularly female leaders of color, are often disparaged more starkly and receive personality-based feedback instead of skills-based feedback. Marginalized group members have long noted these experiences, but majority group members often miss the subtler signs of bias. 50 ways to fight gender bias   
  3. Understanding your Privilege: Arduously going through the practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, by which a person holding privilege and power actively seeks to uplift his or her allies, goes a long way. For example, understanding the privilege men can have in being allies to empower women, understanding the privilege one has in empowering minority communities or a person with disabilities and systematically helping can transform societally and in workplaces. 
  4. Networking and forming Allies: Make a conscious effort to know who you have worked with who share a positive energy and share constructive feedback. Be proactive and seeking out cross functional sponsors and mentors or even outside your organization. Attend networking events, offer to volunteer and often reach out people you want to learn from or stay connected. Be an Ally to a person in need. Be involved in peer coaching. How can you help 
  5. Bringing Diversity to the table: Organizations both big and small are breaking legacy barriers by bringing in necessary training, awareness and leadership efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion. Be it in the Hiring processes, or promotions, providing adequate opportunities for growth or bringing in champions, diversity and inclusion fosters allyship and brings in revolutionary changes in organization resilience. Harvard Business Review Article captures How to be a Better Ally

To see your Allyship Building Skills in Action with the power of AI , take a look at NumlyEngage(™). Get a live demo today!  

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The recent second-term win of New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden and the Oval Office welcoming its first female vice president in 200 years of history shows that the glass ceiling is breaking…and the women across the world are waiting with bated breath to grab what’s due to them, with their shoes on. If we look at New Zealand’s Prime Ministerial candidates, this year both in the running were women. From Germany to New Zealand, to the U.S to Norway and Taiwan, Finland and Denmark, female leaders of these countries have taken over by storm.

Women Leadership Matters

There are enough studies that show that organizations with gender diversity not just amongst the workforce, but with senior leaders, outperform organizations that don’t. 

A report from McKinsey revealed that “In the UK, greater gender diversity on the senior executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10% increase in gender diversity, earnings before interest and taxes rose by 3.5%”. 

However, a 2018 Goldman Sachs report on gender diversity, whilst noting limitations on available data propounded that “Women make up about 40% of all employees – but just 6% of CEOs.”  

Without delving into the details of this disproportionate allocation of leadership roles, let’s evaluate what can be done to develop a strong bench of women leaders in an organization.

Strong is not equal to aggressive and compassionate does not mean weak

One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” — Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

The fact that  the Prime Minister of a country says this is quite revealing. Years of social conditioning that equate strength with aggression and empathy and compassion with weakness, not just with women but with men as well. 

If anything, these are archaic ways of thinking. Some of the best and the most successful leaders across the world display these traits irrespective of their gender. It is about time to correct the narrative.

Organizations have their work cut out for them to coach their entire workforce to understand, accept, and internalize this difference. A good starting point for this is to have women leaders and develop a company culture that moves away from the straightjacket and rigid definition of leadership as defined by the ages and moves towards a more progressive and flexible definition of the same.

Help women leaders find and define their leadership style

What organization and coaching strategies have to change is trying to fit women into the mold of leadership as defined by men across the years. It is essential to understand that strength and decisiveness are complementary to empathy and compassion. They are not competition.

Research shows that empathy and leadership performance are directly related. The surprising part is that this is the competitive edge that most leaders are missing. So, instead of trying to build strong women leaders who are aggressive, does it not make more sense to leverage the inherent nature of women and coach them on how to use empathy and compassion to their advantage? 

Does it not make more sense to give women leaders the support, tools, and guidance to help them curate the individual leadership styles that help them accentuate their inherent strengths – empathy and compassion being two of them? When we have an opportunity to take advantage of a unique skill set, why must we try to fit it into the same old box?

Leadership development and coaching programs for women have to become more focused on helping women leaders find their inherent leadership style and with it, help them raise their leadership voice.

Read: Fix Gender Imbalance with Innovative Women Leadership Development Programs

From the glass ceiling to the broken rung – women leadership has to be intentional

While it is the glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching the top, it is not the only barrier. The McKinsey 2019 Women in the Workplace report showed that “Women are often hired and promoted based on past accomplishments, while men may be hired and promoted based on future potential.”

Organizations have to overcome this barrier and help women reach their potential by becoming more data-driven in potential mapping and become more intentional in putting women in first-level management positions. 

Identifying the high-potential women employees, helping potential women-leaders identify the gaps to become better leaders using data-backed assessments, and introducing contextual and tailored coaching programs help in not only breaking the glass ceiling but also in fixing that broken rung that keeps women from moving up the ladder.

This approach also helps organizations develop a healthy pipeline of future leaders who can capably lead the organization to greater success and profitability.

Create clear opportunities for growth

From ensuring that hiring and promotions are fair and transparent, establishing clear evaluation criteria, and creating an environment conducive to growth, organizations need to create clear growth opportunities to develop a strong bench of empathetic and compassionate women leaders.

To move ahead on this path, organizations have to become proactive in helping women employees develop the right networks and the right connections and also coach them to build their network to drive growth. 

They also have to help women employees identify the gaps and coach them to close these gaps while helping them to maximize their strengths to prepare them for leadership success. Additionally, organizations have to help women employees understand themselves as leaders, identify the barriers to their advancement, and help them align their personal values with their work.

Level the playing field

As mentioned earlier, the social context we are raised to promotes certain gender stereotypes. Given that these are outdated ideas, it is high time for organizations to create healthier models of effective leadership – one that is more evolved, balanced, and diverse. 

This shift is fundamental to business success as we move into the future. Stephanie S Mead, author of The Art of Strategic Leadership: How Leaders at All Levels Prepare Themselves, Their Teams, and Organizations for the Future, states, “If you want to be relevant in the future, you have no choice but to change and evolve…the responsibility to build and support a culture where breaking down ingrained habits and old standards are recognized as an important part of rebuilding and creating a stronger, more successful organization.

The venerable Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at. My favorite example is the symphony orchestra. When I was growing up, there were no women in orchestras. Auditioners thought they could tell the difference between a woman playing and a man. Some intelligent person devised a simple solution: Drop a curtain between the Auditioners and the people trying out. And, lo and behold, women began to get jobs in symphony orchestras.” Maybe, it is time for organizations to drop this veritable curtain that divides men and women and give women the tools they need to develop and hone their leadership prowess. Along with the women, the organizations themselves stand to gain tremendously.

Connect with us to know how you can identify and grow the next generation of women leaders across the enterprise.

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

According to a McKinsey study, 79% of entry-level women and 83% of middle-management women desire to move to the next level in their workplace. 75% of women aspire to become a part of the C Suite – numbers that prove that ambition is not gender defined. 

However, even today, only 4.6% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are female!

We are finally moving away from ‘second-generation gender bias’, a set of assumptions that appear neutral but reflect prejudiced values in the traditional perception of leadership. To get women to the top, organizations have to focus on developing a few critical leadership skills of their high-potential women leaders. 

Here is a small list.

Building Credibility 

Credibility is a core skill of all successful leaders and has to be a key focus area of all leadership development initiatives. This is the same for high-potential women employees as well. Trust goes hand in hand with credibility and, hence, it is not something that can happen overnight. Credible leaders are a dependable source of information and expertise. It also makes them good decision-makers. Such leaders also rank highly on the accountability matrix and take full responsibility for their actions and decisions. 

Negotiation and Influencing 

Our social conditioning through the decades has made it harder for women to claim authority, which often impedes their negotiation success rates. Women are taught from the onset that by negotiating, they are taking something away from a person. This feels like a violation of the social contract they are born with. 

Yet, negotiating skills and the capability to influence others greatly determine the success rate of an individual. Building key behaviors such as asking for what they need without feeling stressed or uncomfortable, building negotiation style, developing strategies to leverage past successes for future negotiations, and identifying and overcoming the barriers of negotiation success are essential. 

Managing Up & Across the Organization

Those working their way up the leadership ladder have to hone their skills to manage teams across the organizations. For this, it is imperative to develop the capabilities to lead cross-functional teams and manage the hierarchies at play. 

It also means developing the skills to manage complex relationships. Having strong communication skills and having an understanding of the language that is most effective for peers, subordinates, and high-ups become critical metrics for leadership success. 

Managing Organizational Complexities and Strategic Thinking 

Given the volatile and dynamic market conditions, high-potential women employees, much like their male counterparts, have to work towards honing their strategic thinking skills. To do so, it is important to first gain a deep understanding of the organizational complexities at hand, the challenges the organization faces, the areas of improvement, and what the organization is doing right in relation to the market dynamics. All these things help in getting the contextual understanding of decision impact. 

Organizations have to groom their women leaders to improve their capability to ‘see around the corner’. This means they have to develop the capability to anticipate market shifts with customers, regulations, policies, and competitors by understanding which information to keep and which ones to ignore.

Behavior, Feedback, and Leadership Perception

Learning is an essential and unending part of the leadership journey. Determining the effectiveness of the leadership style, thus becomes important. And for this, it is important to be open to feedback and develop strong capabilities to self-evaluate and develop the right set of behaviors and attitudes that support the personal leadership brand, and consequently, the career direction. 

Build Strategic Networks for Authentic Engagement 

Organizations have to assist women employees in mastering dominant codes that nurture ambition. This includes building awareness of self-imposed limitations and the crucial importance of networking. 

High-potential women employees have to be more focused on building strategic networks to create opportunities for broader professional exposure while raising their profile, having more meaningful interactions, and building more authentic engagement. 

Identify and Implement a Personal Leadership Strategy 

Should you ‘Lean in’ or ‘Lean out’? Should your leadership style be authoritative and/or assertive? Do women have to be louder to be a leader? Do leaders always have to be extroverts? Clearly, there are many leadership styles to choose from. But which one is the most ‘effective’ leadership style? 

Organizations have to now take a step forward and help their high-potential women employees realize their own leadership strengths, simply because leadership does not come in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ format. To develop effective women leaders, organizations must help them understand different leadership styles and then enable them to confidently embrace the one that suits their personality, situation, and organizational culture. 

The last few years have been standout years for women in the corporate world. While there are cracks that are appearing in the proverbial glass ceiling, it is yet to be shattered. The onus of furthering the cause of women does not rest with the women workforce alone. It rests with organizations as well. Having recognized the value that women bring to organizations, organizations should leverage coaching and mentoring programs to help their women employees move ahead in leadership roles by bridging the gaps that impede their growth in a male-centric environment. 

 

NumlyEngage™ helps you build a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Let’s connect to know how you can leverage the power of AI and analytics to identify and nurture high-potential talent.