Women in leadership: 7 steps to close the gap

The steps to take in order to close the gap between men and women. A path that starts from the top

di Luisiana Gaita

Women make up more than 50% of the global workforce but less than 25% of them hold senior leadership roles. Some argue that the gap is closed in the context of leading roles, but this is not true. In the report “Seven steps to conscious inclusion” compiled by Manpower Group, seven practical steps are suggested to individual people and companies in order to change the situation: from work life balance to the elimination of “pink ghettos”, the few working contexts where women are allowed to make a career.

These steps are the outcome of a survey that involved in-depth interviews with 222 leaders of different age and gender from 25 countries worldwide, representing companies with over half a million employees.

Women represent more than 50%
of the global workforce
but less than 25% hold leadership roles

What are today leaders doing to close the gender gap? The Y generation of the Millennials will eventually be the turning point? According to the research, despite a general consciousness about the fact that more women should hold leading roles, there are far less clear ideas about how to reach this target. In order to reach top positions within a company, women manager have to behave like their male counterparts. Besides this, there are some working sectors that are strictly regarded as a male domain and remain off limits.

The following seven steps may open a new path within organizations and help them to move closer to conscious inclusion. All that’s needed is a clear strategy, a significant amount of effort and, above all, a strong determination.

1An authentic change
The first step to take is to truly believe in the change. If the change is not authentic, it will be perceived as a mere change of fashion and will be soon forgotten.

2Decisions from the top
The people in leadership have to manage the issue. Gender parity cannot be delegated to human resources. For commitment to be authentic and aligned with business strategies, decisions have to start from the top and demonstrated by the leadership team in order to be supported by human resources.

3Challenge assumptions
The next step requires boldness and a new perspective to challenge assumptions. Instead of saying “she doesn’t have the experience”, ask “what do we need to make it work?” To reach this target, however, we must ask ourselves about present-day and future foreseeable roles of women in leadership.

4Value talent
If we hire people who value people, they will figure out how to optimize all human potential, including women. They will be open to strategies that aim at balancing life and work, measuring success on performance and not on presenteeism.

5Promote a culture of conscious inclusion
The fifth step is to promote a culture of conscious inclusion within the company. The leadership team has the main responsibility in changing the culture.

6“Pink ghettos” have no use
Simply increasing female representation will not make the difference. Men and women must hold positions at all levels and in every business unit. Looking at macro numbers is not enough: it results in “pink ghettos”, which are generally HR and Communications.

7Set measurable and achievable targets
In business, it is about outcomes and what you want to achieve. The times and procedures for change have to be planned as if they were a strategic business priority or investment. True change takes time, focus and discipline. The outcome is crystal clear: move from words to facts.

(translation by Cecilia Braghin)