February 26, 2020
If you don’t have a women’s leadership development initiative in place, chances are your company could benefit from one, experts from the AMA Women’s Leadership Center (WLC) believe.
It’s not always easy getting important programs like this off the ground, though. Having some key players on board is essential, a WLC panel told HR department heads, learning and development directors, and other Dallas-area business leaders. The group was assembled at the January WLC “breakfast briefing” on starting or improving a women’s leadership initiative in your company.
The WLC has a high-level roadmap to help you through any phase of planning a women’s program, but getting started is the most important step, says Lauren McNally, WLC director. The idea is that through meaningful education, women will develop the tools they need to advance into leadership roles—one of the main goals of the WLC, McNally says.
At the well-attended Dallas event, McNally was joined by Tonya Echols, an executive coach and a leadership consultant at Vigere, in a discussion panel moderated by Tammy Swed, a learning solutions manager at AMA.
The panelists said that there were several phases to developing initiatives:
Every phase in your initiative will evolve, Echols emphasizes, and will be personal to your company culture and the needs of specific groups. What works in one department at your company may not work in another.
It’s also vital to get buy-in from male allies in the company. Talk about what your experience is, Echols says, and get an idea of the intersectionality of different people’s experiences. Don’t expect that all women will feel the same about your initiative.
One Dallas-area male HR director asked the panel how to engage women who have been with the company for years and are skeptical of such training programs. He said they feel that nothing ever comes of such things—there’s never any change.
These are some of the people you want to include, along with the male allies, as your champions, Swed says. “Appeal to their emotions,” she suggests. “Yes, they did not have the opportunities or access to resources that women in the organization have today—but they can be role models, they can set the tone for future leaders.”
And, if people feel that nothing ever changes, then actually make changes, Echols adds. “You have to do it,” she says.
Of course, making change requires buy-in from senior leadership, and this often comes down to demonstrating how your bottom line and public image will be affected, Echols says. People make purchasing decisions based on companies’ values, so having women in leadership and having an initiative that trains women for leadership will have a positive impact on how people view your company.
Finally, Echols points out the importance of recognizing that for women of color and other women, backgrounds and experiences can vary greatly. It’s important to talk about that.
“We [women] are not a monolith,” Echols says. “The bigger thing is that they’re having the conversation.”
If you’re looking to build your women’s leadership program in a meaningful way to create a lasting impact in your organization, sign up for the 1-Day Workshop: Strategies for Building an Impactful Women’s Initiative. Or we can bring this to your company and specifically tailor it to your challenges and goals.