How to build strong women leaders in the corporate world

07Mar
Blog

How to build strong women leaders in the corporate world

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By Robbin Jorgensen - Founder and CEO, Women Igniting Change®

This article is part of a Special Series titled How to #PressForProgress in Women’s Entrepreneurship by the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. The series contributes to the #InternationalWomensDay dialogue on empowering women around the world through entrepreneurship.

If women in leadership positions boost performance numbers, as research shows, then all companies must surely be pushing to make gender equality a priority.

But that’s not exactly the case.

Yes, progress in gender equality in the corporate world is moving forward at a painstaking pace and no one knows this better than women who work there.

However, the facts speak for themselves: Women still earn on average 80% of what men earn, represent only 20% of congressional seats, hold only 5% of Fortune 500 CEO positions, and represent on average 17% of global board positions.
These numbers leave women who work in the trenches feeling disheartened.

But, there is a ray of light that we should celebrate: some organizations are championing the cause. They’ve latched on to what the research proves – companies with the highest representation of women in executive committees and positions perform and compete better than their counterparts. And when organizations focus on gender equality, both in pay and in positions, they have a higher propensity to recruit top talent and even more importantly, retain these women.

The HeForShe IMPACT Champion Parity Report, for example, recognizes ten companies that publicly work for gender equality.

These IMPACT companies have done this is by implementing three things:
• Mobilizing education among their employees on gender equality;
• Launching new efforts to accelerate progress toward workforce parity;
• Empowering men to become activists for gender equality.

In the U.K., the “ Think. Act. Report.” campaign encourages companies to:
• Think about gender equality in their workforces, on key issues such as recruitment, retention, promotion, and pay.
• Act where the need for action is identified.
• Report the steps they are taking and the progress they are making. This information doesn’t need to be included in annual reports. Companies may choose to do this on their websites or in their promotional material.

What lessons can we learn from these leading companies to make gender equality a priority in the corporate world?

No. 1 – TAKE RISKS

These companies took the risk of sharing their gender-diversity figures and launching initiatives in support of gender equality. What risks can you take in your workplace to take a stand and lead the way for even more companies to do the same?

No. 2 – NOTHING CHANGES IF NOTHING CHANGES

Embodying a willingness to change is key to making progress. We’ve all heard the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
To make an impact, you must be a change agent — even when it’s an unpopular position to take. One way the U.N. is doing this, is by offering special programs to support the career advancement of women, such as women’s mentoring, coaching, women-specific training and development of women’s networks.

What changes need to be made in your organization, that you can facilitate?

No. 3 – EMBRACE TRANSPARENCY

We’re at a great time, when authenticity and openness are valued more than whitewashing. Finding and sharing solutions to antiquated problems such as gender bias opens dialogue and breaks up the status quo. Coming up with out-of-the box ways to do this can transform your workplace from the inside out. What problems and inequities in your organization need to be addressed?

The fact is that the world is changing fast and it needs all of us contributing our talents, strengths, courage and conviction to shift the narrative. In order to do this, we need to remember who we were before the world told us who we should be. What will your contribution be? Please share below!

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Robbin Jorgensen

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Robbin Jorgensen is the Founder and CEO of Women Igniting Change®, a global purpose driven organization geared toward unleashing the contribution of women around the world. She is a highly successful businesswoman with 20+ years of experience, sought-after speaker, women’s leadership strategist and U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda’s AVEGA Agahozo.

Follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.