Nancy Fredericks pens IWLC's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.CareerStretchZone.com.
Seventy four percent of corporations say gender diversity is its number one priority, yet minimal progress has been made in changing the leadership reality for women. As Joan C. Williams, professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, says: If we continue progressing at the same pace, it will take 250 years for men and women to achieve parity as CEOs. A study by McKinsey & Company and Lean In reports that only one third of the workforce believes gender diversity is a top issue for their direct manager.
Companies are beginning to realize their leadership development initiatives are missing the mark for women. Another factor holding women back is that many resist attending all-female leadership programs, arguing: “I’m competing with men as an equal. Why would I agree to separate myself?”
Let’s take a step back to observe this male/female issue in a different and historically earlier context. Do you remember when the medical research and treatment methodologies were based on studying only men? The medical communities presumed the results would translate to women. After all, both genders are part of the homo-sapiens species, aren’t they? Women suffered from the resulting healthcare treatment they received as doctors misdiagnosed—as well as overlooked—warning signs that were different in women than men.
A similar breakdown is occurring in business today as companies and leaders assume the mentoring/motivating attitudes they have used with male executives applies equally to female executives. This development approach has not been successful. Look at the statistics: Women make-up 52 percent of all professional-level positions, yet hold only 14.6 percent of the executive officers positions; they represent a mere 8.1 percent of top earners and are 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. Do not let this female development gap handicap your career.
What can you do about it?
It is up to you to foster gender equality for yourself. It is not easy, yet it is rewarding both financially and for the future of your career. You will discover, as you adopt new elements to your job, a new excitement as you go to work. Do not let another year of opportunity pass you by as you wait for others to make career decisions for you.