Women make up only 6.4 percent of CEOs and 25 percent of C-suites, yet they’re nearly 50 percent of the labor force. Why the disconnect? If there are almost as many women as men in the workforce why aren’t there more female leaders?
Nancy Wolk, founder and principal of eMentorConnect, suggests it’s because women sometimes struggle to promote themselves and advance their careers in a male-dominated workplace.
“Women don’t post for promotions,” she says. “Most women assume that if they do a good job, then people will recognize them and they’ll be promoted. But that isn’t always the case. The reality is that you need to have more visibility and an advocate to move forward. A mentor, and a mentoring program, can help.”
Bridging the Confidence Gap
“Unlike men who will apply for new positions and promotions when they have 50 percent or less of the necessary capabilities, women can have 90 percent of the capabilities and still not apply because they don’t have that last 10 percent,” explains Wolk. “They simply don’t have the confidence to believe their skill set is enough. But who in their right mind goes for a job they have 100 percent capability for? No one! They’d be bored in six months. Mentoring helps women understand that they don’t need to have all of the skills for the job before they apply. It bridges the confidence gap by boosting women’s confidence in their own skills.”
This difference in confidence between men and women is readily apparent in group settings, especially when both groups are asked the same question.
“It’s funny,” says Wolk, “you can get a different response from men and women just by asking the question ‘Are you sure?’ Studies show that men become more confident in the face of that question, while women shrink back. Women, when questioned or confronted, lose faith in themselves and what they know. Bridging that confidence gap is crucial for leadership development in women, and mentoring — having someone who highlights your skills and shows you the many ways in which they can be applied — goes a long way toward doing that.”
Driving Leadership Development
“Diversity INC says that ‘Research, including studies from Catalyst, shows that women and people from traditionally underrepresented groups do better than the general population — in terms of engagement, retention, and promotions — when they have mentors,’ and that’s certainly true,” says Wolk. “A mentoring program that uses a digital platform, like our KNOX solution, can focus on advancing an individual’s overall career with networking and general support, or it can be tailored to focus on a more specific, competency-based growth path that enables an employee to gain those last skills that will ensure success in a new leadership role. In the latter case, the mentor helps uncover the missing skill and then builds it using platform-based content and guides. That kind of specified help makes a huge difference in developing both men and women.”
“I think all of us do better when there’s someone who is interested in our career, someone who may become a sponsor or advocate for us,” adds Wolk. “Not everyone needs to be a CEO, but everyone should be aspirational. When you’re aspirational, it creates a major impact on an organization. It drives engagement and creates an environment that is naturally aligned with development.”
This increase in engagement, and the accompanying increase in retention, means mentoring can boast an ROI of 1000 percent. However, it also impacts organizational success in other ways. Mentoring with a specific leadership objective drives leadership development among women, and female leadership drives profitability. Major research indicates that a higher percentage of women in top management roles leads to greater returns for a company’s shareholders. Organizations owe it to themselves and their stakeholders to ensure they’re doing all they can to achieve success, which includes fostering the development of women.
“A well-executed mentoring program drives development by uncovering unknown talent and empowering employees to impact their career paths in ways that are mutually beneficial to them and the company,” says Wolk. “Bottom line is it’s astounding.”
Ready to see at least a 51 percent increase in leadership skills among women in your organization? Schedule a demo of eMentorConnect’s web-based mentoring platform today.