7 Ways Managers Can Support Women in Leadership Roles

No matter what industry you’re in, there are certain factors – such as job satisfaction and work environment – that greatly affect your employee retention rate. Effective leaders are aware that the amount of support employees receive from management is a contributing factor, as well. However, even the most seasoned managers may not realize that there’s a specific group of employees in any organization that may need additional or different support than the rest of their colleagues. 

women in leadership

Having women in leadership roles is not uncommon in most industries, but overall, a gap still remains to this day between the amount of men and the amount of women in these roles. Although globally, women make up 40% of the working population, they make up only 34% of the managerial positions of the world. Part of the reason why there are significantly less women in leadership is simply because many women don’t apply for specific leadership positions. 

In order to properly address this gap and encourage women to pursue leadership roles, it’s necessary to address what kind of support women in leadership need and exactly how organizations can provide that type of support. 

Why Women in Leadership Need Support

When it comes to leadership positions, especially in large corporations and politics, there are far fewer women than men occupying these positions. Interestingly enough, it’s not always discrimination that causes this gap in leadership positions and one of the main contributing factors is actually self-selection. Self-selection means that fewer women than men actually apply or attempt to work towards being in certain executive positions.

We know there are many capable women in leadership who have the ability to thrive in the same roles as their male colleagues. This has led many leaders to ask why women don’t seek out these roles and how the numbers would change if women in leadership received the support they needed. 

What Keeps Women From Seeking Leadership Roles?

One of the reasons why women may not apply or seek to be elected in these types of positions is self-confidence. According to a study done by the American Economic Association, women are less likely to have a positive view of themselves and confidence in their abilities as a leader. If lack of self-confidence is contributing to women staying out of leadership roles, then it’s crucial for organizations to examine their training at both the professional and executive level.

Encouraging women to pursue leadership roles and supporting those who are already leaders is beneficial for the workplace as a whole. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that “Women are the most underutilized economic asset in the world’s economy.”

Gender Bias as a Contributing Factor

Having 34% of women represent managerial positions in the global workplace shows great progress for women in leadership. To fully understand what kind of support women in the workplace need, it’s important to note that the numbers greatly change the higher up the corporate ladder you go. When it comes to Fortune 500 companies, the gap becomes even more vast with only 2% of women reaching a CEO position.

It’s clear that when it comes to executive positions, some gender bias does exist due to the nature and expectations of positions such as CEO of a large corporation. Stereotypes about men and women in leadership also exist, and the reality that women tend to be viewed as more gentle and sensitive than men often leads some to believe women are less capable leaders. 

7 Tips for Supporting Women in Leadership

Only through proper training and education can stereotypes in the workplace be dismissed, therefore closing the gap and allowing women to thrive even in executive positions. The following are seven actions that all managers can take in their training programs if they desire to support women in becoming better leaders.

1. Look out for stereotypes.
When you’re dealing with people, stereotypes are always going to exist. One of the stereotypes that harms women in leadership is the belief that if a female employee is caring or sensitive, she is an incompetent leader. You can’t control the stereotypes that employees bring to the organization, but you can control company culture and how these stereotypes are dealt with. 

2. Encourage them to grow.
If one of the main issues with women being in leadership roles is self-selection, encourage the women in your organization to grow into their current role and continue moving forward. Offering mentorship opportunities can be extremely beneficial because female employees can learn from more experienced leaders and build their own self-confidence. 

3. Let their voices be heard.
Studies have shown that men have a tendency to interrupt more than women and when it comes to business meetings, this can lead women to feel like their voices aren’t heard. If women who are currently in or seeking leadership roles are unable to speak up during meetings, it can also contribute to them being perceived as incapable leaders. Establishing meeting protocols as well as proper training for employees can ensure everyone is treated fairly during meetings.

4. Make room for negotiation.
When it comes to a gap in pay between men and women, one of the most significant contributing factors is negotiation. Not only are women less likely to attempt to negotiate their salaries but when they do, they also receive poorer results than their male colleagues. You can support women in your organization by normalizing negotiation for both men and women, as well as making sure pay increases are evaluated fairly. 

5. Be respectful of parental roles.
With women making up 40% of the global workforce, this means a significant portion of the overall workforce are also mothers. In the United States alone, working mothers make up nearly 32% of all employed women. Family responsibilities are the cause of many female leaders being seen as less committed to their careers, although this is not true for most working mothers. Helping leaders establish proper work-life boundaries for employees as well as offering flexible work options can be extremely beneficial for women in leadership.

6. Share the workload.
Many women in the workplace find themselves in support roles, but when women are in leadership, it’s not uncommon for them to take on a larger workload when it comes to training new employees or general office duties. In order to support the women in your organization, make sure the workload is evenly distributed among both the male and female employees. 

7. Offer equal opportunities.
Female employees may face many obstacles, but many also become strong and effective leaders when given the opportunity. When opportunities for advancement come up in your organization, make sure everyone who qualifies is considered and that equal opportunities are offered to all capable employees. Encourage women in leadership roles to apply for promotions and be sure proper training is given to those responsible for choosing potential candidates. 

Supporting Women in Leadership Is an Opportunity For All

Women in the workplace have come a long way and despite the challenges many still face, their success should be celebrated. Even working mothers, who make up a significant portion of working women, are finding ways to balance their careers and their family lives at home. However, women in leadership roles can’t continue to grow and make progress without the help of the leaders they work for. Every organization has the opportunity to grow and thrive by choosing to support their female leaders.

Would You Love More Guidance With Supporting Employees in Your Organization?

Having an inclusive culture in your workplace is crucial for hiring and retaining great employees. If your organization is looking to create a company culture that supports all employees, download this free eBook now: Creating a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion.

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