Guest blog: Coaching Female Leadership

CoachHub · 12 October 2020 · 4 min read

This week our guest blog comes from our Science Board member, Christina Bosenberg. Drawing from 20+ years in digital transformation consultancy and her wealth of knowledge in women in leadership, Christina offers her perspective on female leadership and the role of coaching.

It is easier to live in homogeneous groups – but we are better, more innovative and more profitable heterogeneous. We know that.

Nevertheless, for the first time in years, the proportion of women in the top echelons of the German Fortune 100 companies has fallen against the international trend, to 12.8%, according to a recent study by the Allbright Foundation. As many as eleven Dax companies have a purely male board of directors. (average number in comparison: USA 28.6%, Sweden 24.9%, Great Britain 24.5%, in France 22.2% – all rising / proportion of women in top positions).

Gender diversity is not an end in itself, but fundamentally an ethical self-image.  The purpose, i.e. the purpose of equal representation, of decision-makers and participation, is therefore clear. The question “what for”, however, has in the past hardly moved any decision-makers within companies to produce gender diversity. So far, so interesting.

Now there are more and more figures, data and facts available that effectively complement the “what for” of gender diversity in all social and economic areas. In short: Increased innovative power, economic success and corporate culture.

McKinsey, for example, caused quite a stir with the international study “Diversity Wins – How Inclusion Matters”, which presents the connections between diversity and business success in crystal clear figures:

  • Companies with an above-average level of gender diversity in their management have a much better chance of achieving higher profits than their competitors.
  • The data also shows that companies with a higher proportion of women in management positions have a clear long-term advantage over industry competitors, in terms of market share. This is clearly evident from a female share in management of at least 30%.
  • A high degree of gender diversity in the company also leads to increased creativity and innovation.

Diversity in the company thus makes it more productive, profitable and innovative. This too has been known for years. Very little has been done.

“The reasons for the persistent lack of women in management positions are complex and much discussed.  To sum up, the most prominent is the unconscious bias, the unconscious cognitive distortion that evaluates one’s own actions and thought patterns as ‘the normal’ and subsequently defends comfort zones. This can be seen well in male-dominated decision-making bodies.”  (Schmitt sucht Schmittchen, 2015).

The innovative culture begins in the mind – for women as well as men.

Clearly, structural levers are important and the New Work achievements such as part-time management models, parental leave promotion, performance measurement, flexible presence, etc. makes sense for women as well as men. However, experience has shown that we only encounter the “Unconscious Bias” to a limited extent, if at all. And: traditional ideas do not only have to be overcome by men.

Strategic approach and a wealth of opportunities

But what works? We know that we learn best as adults through direct exchange, with a person who reflects with us and draws our attention here and there to errors of thought and traps. In a corporate context, this can be a good coach, a mentor or even your own team. Leadership development programmes based on learning communities are also very suitable. In contrast to the setup of common HR instruments, which are called Female Leadership Programmes, for example, I have been suggesting for some time now that these groups be invited to be gender-diverse.

Almost 75% of the companies evaluating these initiatives report profit increases of up to 20%. Similar results have been found in initiatives such as McKinsey’s Remarkable Women Programme. It is clear that organisations who provide time and budget for (executive) coaching or Female Leadership Programmes, see a positive ROI.

An unbeatable strategic approach for more gender diversity is scaled coaching for all levels in the company and executive coaching for female leaders. Coaching has a direct effect on the unconscious bias and has been proven to lead to more focus and higher performance.

The more scaled these measures are rolled out around new patterns of action and thinking, the more likely they are to be successful: the critical mass thus creates a new reality.

One study I like to refer to in this context is Accenture’s “Getting to equal”, which shows how diversity and innovation are mutually dependent – and also what priorities top managers have today. Diversity and corporate culture are at the bottom of the list, just ahead of environmental and CO2-related issues. You don’t really need to know more to see clearly: if you want to see more women in decision-making roles in politics and business, you would do well to not just call on individual support, but to approach the matter in a strategic and democratised manner.

“If you want to see more women in decision-making roles in politics and business, you would do well to not only call for case-by-case funding, but to approach the matter in a strategic and democratised manner.”

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Female Leaders & Executive Coaching: A guarantee for success?

Executive Coaching is therefore not only interesting for Female Leaders at every career level, but also for companies. Numbers, data and facts are available that show an increased innovative power, economic success and a motivating corporate culture.

My recommendation to my clients is therefore: Put positive alternatives next to the status quo instead of fighting the old. Pressure only creates counter-pressure, so it is wisest to simply place the desired reality next to the outdated reality.

The new global world of work remains challenging. Let us prepare the ground for the most important competences of the new working world: self-organisation and self-reflection as well as communication and learning skills.

Together we will shape the future of work as a heterogeneous and diverse team.

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