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How to Encourage More Women into Leadership

Written by: Orlaith O'Mahony
Published on: 16 Mar 2023

How to Encourage More Women into Leadership

Women in Leadership

The step beyond getting women into your organization is to help them reach leadership  

Women are getting in the door, but what happens once they are in the door? A quick look inside organizations struggling with the issue of developing women leaders can be instructive.  

In 1950, the labour force participation rate of women in the US was around 34%. The US Department of Labour projects that by 2025, it will climb to nearly 60 percent.   

The data is clear. Companies with women at the top perform better. In fact, companies with the most female officers have financial returns that are 34% better. Companies that are successful in moving more women into leadership roles take seven clear steps, which are outlined in ManpowerGroup’s Seven Steps to Conscious Inclusion report:  


Change yourself first. Believe it or don’t bother. Change must be authentic. If not, people see it as a fad that’s here today, gone tomorrow.   

The CEO needs to own the issue. Gender parity cannot be delegated to HR. For commitment to be authentic and aligned with business strategy, change must flow from the top and be demonstrated by the leadership team. HR can help support it.   

Ask, why not? Instead of saying, “she doesn’t have the experience,” ask, “what do we need to make it work?” Challenge assumptions.  

Hire people who value people. 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 support balancing the integration of work and home, measuring success on performance and quality of output, not presenteeism. They will support people to plan and manage for career ‘waves’ not ladders.   

Promote a culture. Generic programs do not work. The last three decades prove this. Programs don’t change behaviours and don’t improve the numbers. They can even breed complacency, rewarding activity not the results. Accountability sits with senior leadership and decision makers to promote a culture of Conscious Inclusion. 

Be explicit: women when and where? Simply increasing female representation will not shift the needle. Women and men must be represented at all levels and in every business unit. Leaders must know exactly where they need women to be. Looking at macro numbers is not enough; it results in “pink ghettos” instead of P&L and staff roles.   

Set outcomes. In business, it is about outcomes and what you want to achieve. Every hiring and promotion decision can be justified but if that isn’t moving closer towards the tipping point then Conscious Inclusion and gender parity just won't happen. Articulate a talent legacy - how things will change and what it will look like by when. Plan for it as if it were a strategic business priority or investment. Change takes time, focus and discipline.  

It may seem like a challenging to-do list. But anything with a worthwhile outcome has always been hard work.   

Read more about encouraging women into leadership roles:   

Five Ways to Help Women Leaders Reach (for) the Stars

Are You Getting Women in the Door, but Not on the Elevator?  

Women and Leadership: What is Your Culture Mirroring?