Malika Amandi is a coach, speaker, and advocate who provides communication coaching and leadership development to professional women. In 2017, Malika founded The Center for Women’s Voice, where she helps female executives and those aspiring to leadership positions speak with authority in male-driven industries. 

We asked Malika to share her thoughts on the importance of women’s leadership in the workplace. 

Here’s Malika:

We’ve all read the stats about how the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on working women. In the last year, women have exited the workforce in historic numbers. In September 2020, four times more women than men dropped out of the labor force.

You’ve also likely seen the studies showing that women make excellent leaders and even that organizations with more women on their executive teams are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability.

Yet for many companies, gender parity continues to remain elusive, especially at the leadership level. We know elevating women is a smart business move, but many business owners can’t seem to move the needle on changing the gender dynamics of their leadership teams. The will is there, but the way seems confusing or unclear.

How do we bridge the gap?

I’d suggest that we need to reframe leadership development for women in the workplace. It’s startling to find that 70% of women don’t think their employers provide enough resources and support to help them advance in their careers. 

That’s not to say that business owners don’t want to support women or are intentionally holding them back. But there are a number of reasons why women may benefit from alternate approaches or more explicit opportunities to develop their leadership skills. 

Strategies to Improve Gender Parity in Leadership Roles

The first step to making any change is always awareness of the current state. If you have a gender imbalance in your company’s leadership, it’s helpful to consider whether your organization is an environment where women are able to thrive. 

Evaluate your company’s performance in these areas:

(1) Company policies. Work-life balance factors heavily into job satisfaction for women. Do company policies, including vacation time, parental leave, or even remote work, reflect the flexibility that many working parents are seeking? 

(2) Performance expectations. Work life is undeniably different in the midst of a global emergency, but organizations aren’t always clear about how these realities may or may not affect performance expectations. Are each of your team members clear on what success looks like in their roles?

(3) Open and honest dialogue. To fully open the lines of communication in your company, acknowledge that not every employee may be comfortable sharing their thoughts during a team meeting. Does your company culture leave room for different communication styles, including written exchanges or 1:1 conversations?

(4) Visibility of opportunities. Are the benefits your company offers, whether that’s flexible scheduling or reimbursement for leadership coaching, visible in your organization? Are employees, including women, actively encouraged to take advantage of those benefits? 

Once you’ve done an honest accounting of the current landscape, you may realize you need more information to develop new policies or structures that support women in your organization. 

While talking to the women who currently work for you can have value, try to avoid a situation where you’re asking those women to educate you or solve the company’s problems. That can be emotionally and mentally taxing work, and the women in your organization may be overly burdened by a directive to “fix” what’s wrong. 

In addition to workplace conversations, commit to investigating the body of research on gender disparity that already exists. Studies will not only highlight the facts around gender imbalance but can also provide proven strategies to remedy it. Taking personal responsibility for navigating these challenging dynamics is a great example of modeling the culture you’d like to build in your organization. 

If needed, look outside your company for support. The growing DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) movement has generated many resources and programs to help entrepreneurs actively build a more diverse leadership team. You don’t need to create an approach to gender diversity from scratch, and a third party can often help facilitate these conversations more effectively within your organization. 

Here are a few organizations to check out as a starting point:

Workplace Allies
Michelle P King
Stanford VMWare Women’s Innovation Leadership Lab 

If creating more leadership development opportunities for women is a key initiative for your company, find the right objectives to include on your annual goals or in your 90-day Rocks. Identify metrics that can be measured each week on your scorecard. If you approach these efforts systematically, you’re far more likely to make meaningful progress.

The gender imbalance in business leadership is a challenge—but it’s also an opportunity. Your company may have vast untapped potential that simply needs the right support to reveal itself.  

At every level in an organization, and regardless of gender, individuals who tap into their sense of personal leadership make more meaningful contributions and help build better teams. And better teams help build up the workforce, support small businesses, and contribute to thriving communities.

Eric here again. We know this can be a delicate topic, and it’s one that we’re not perfect at navigating ourselves. But imperfect action is better than no action at all. 

If you’d like to connect about leadership development for any of your employees, give us a call and we can help you approach the situation with the right resources in hand.

All the Best,

Eric Crews
Founder & President
Crews Consulting Group

Like what you read? Please consider sharing this piece with a friend.

You can also share this link, where they can subscribe to the Voice of the Entrepreneur mailing list.

Skimmed it? Here’s the recap:
–Elevating women in your organization is a smart move, but business owners are often unclear on how to do it effectively
–Improving gender parity starts with creating an environment where everyone can thrive
–Company policies, performance expectations, communication practices, and the visibility of available opportunities are areas to assess for workplace inclusivity
–If you’d like to connect about leadership development for any of your employees, give us a call