Women have made massive strides in the workplace over the last several generations, but research shows they are still underrepresented in key positions within companies. In 2019, women accounted for an average of 21% of executive committee members in companies according to LeanIn and McKinsey’s annual survey. The pandemic didn’t make it any easier. McKinsey research shows 23% of women who were parents of children under 10 years old during the pandemic considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers, compared to just 11% of men. This substantial gap explains why 62% of men are managers and only 38% of women have equal positions.
Attempting to bridge the gap, companies have focused on building networks of women to help foster a culture of diversity. These initiatives are useful as they encourage networking and inspiration, but they alone are not enough to reduce the considerable levels of inequality we still see today. The time has come to act. Companies, and chiefly their HR departments, have a wealth of options available to support women as they gain new skills and responsibilities. These include training programs, highlighting women with outstanding careers and mentoring.
Expert Analysis: Women in Leadership in Today’s Workplace
We caught up with Camille Duouy-Olléon, Assistant HR Director, at Econocom to learn about her experience as a woman in the workplace and what areas she believes are best for companies to focus on to support women in leadership.
CoachHub: It’s clear organizations need to take action to build up women in the workplace. Which areas are important to focus on?
Duouy-Olléon: Among the areas requiring action, the main one is building awareness of gender stereotypes, this supposedly innate behavior which people tend to associate either with women or men. Work in this area got underway around a decade ago, but in many companies it’s quite recent. The goal is to make people aware of their biases and age-old stereotypes, and to make sure that they don’t influence us when we make decisions. Raising awareness helps everyone to stay alert.
Despite what many people may think, a capacity for decision-making or a fondness for international mobility are not typically masculine traits. In the same way, a wish to combine a career and parenting are not purely feminine characteristics.
CoachHub: The issue of female leadership remains a non-subject in some companies. What can be done to ensure that it is taken seriously?
Duouy-Olléon: It needs to be seen as a source of economic performance. Since 2006, McKinsey has clearly established the correlation between the level of female representation in companies and their economic performance in their annual Women Matter survey.
CoachHub: What do you think of coaching to support women?
Duouy-Olléon: Of course, it’s a good thing. Whether male or female, each staff member undergoing a personal development process can achieve progress by working on themselves. With coaching, it’s for the individual to determine his or her areas of improvement. We enable them to shape their own career, to take stock of themselves and act, to develop their strengths or correct any areas requiring progress. It’s possible to undertake training to learn the required skills and attitudes.
But coaching goes much further, working on all stages ranging from awareness to the adoption of new behavioral patterns, thereby making it possible to fundamentally assimilate newly acquired skills and attitudes.
CoachHub: What are the benefits of coaching?
Duouy-Olléon: Regardless of gender, coaching offers the best adapted means to help staff to carry out in-depth work on themselves and to reach their goals, boosting their self-confidence and smashing through the glass ceilings which they sometimes impose on themselves.
The main thing companies must understand is that several leadership models can coexist within the same organization. Coaching has the advantage of helping each individual to develop and flourish, while expressing their own style, and thereby to contribute his or her own distinctive touch to the organization.
For more expert analysis on women in the workplace today, access our eBook, “Women in leadership: Creating supportive workspaces.” Ready to provide the women in your organization with the best possible professional development experience? We’re here to help. Schedule a time to connect so we can discuss how our digital coaching solution can help you achieve your goals.