Passport to Business Success: Women at the Wheel: Creating a Women’s Initiative
Research shows that a firm’s advancement of women is intrinsic to its growth and succession goals. Yet many companies continue to struggle with advancing and retaining women, especially those in leadership roles. The companies are recognizing the importance of women’s initiatives as strategic growth drivers and more and more companies are taking the steps to create successful women’s initiatives.
Women’s initiatives can serve to create opportunities for women to learn professional skills to assist in career advancement, develop networks to connect and grow as professionals, and create company policies, such as flexible work arrangements and maternity/paternity leave policies.
So what does it take to create a successful women’s initiative in your company?
Executive leadership commitment.
Does your company’s leadership see a value in creating a women’s initiative? The success of the initiative, as with any other company-wide programs, will highly depend on the observable commitment of the company’s leadership. The top down commitment should not only provide the financial resources for the program, but should also provide ongoing support and valuable input. It also is important for the leadership to understand that the program will not necessarily produce immediate results and that it is an investment in the firm’s future.
Create a buy-in at all levels.
For the initiative to succeed, it must be focused on changes in the company’s culture and not simply creating a program for political correctness or just to keep the firm’s women appeased. Women must perceive the need for such program and be enthusiastic and willing to spend the time in creating and maintaining an effective program. Men must become partners in developing a successful initiative and be active participants, especially since in many instances men remain the firm leaders and hold most of the influence in making the company woman-friendly.
Take stock: feedback and assessment.
The needs and challenges of women can vary by profession, just as the firms can within the same profession, creating different needs of women in each organization. Measure where the women are, or are not, in the company, identify the challenges for advancement and find out what issues women are facing specifically in the company. A great way to gain insight on where the initiative’s focus should be is to conduct internal surveys. The feedback will provide awareness on specific issues which will help in creating targeted programs to address weak points that are specific to your company.
Create a business plan.
Develop a clearly defined mission statement which should align with your company’s strategic goals. Create an organization structure with defined roles, especially if your company has multiple locations. Most importantly, identify specific objectives and goals and decide how the success of the initiative will be measured. Is it going to be measured by how many additional women become executives? By how many working mothers are retained? Or by how much new business is generated?
Develop specific programs.
Once the women’s initiative goals and objectives are determined, create and implement specific programs. These programs can be focused on creating company policies, internal development of women, external networking and mentoring. Some examples of programs include networking events that women would be interested in
attending, such as wine tasting; golf classes; informational events with guest speakers; creating a focus group to assess/create policies for flexible work arrangements; creating a mentoring program which will allow younger staff to learn important leadership and managing skills from those senior to them. Consider reaching out to other women’s initiative groups to share ideas and to find out what programs have been successful for them.
Measure and re-assess.
Women’s initiative is a work in progress and it grows and evolves at different paces in each company. To achieve the level of success defined in your women’s initiative business plan, the results should be continually and attentively monitored. Appropriate adjustments should be made and, if the results continue to fall below expectations,
decide if a significant overhaul of the initiative should be made.
Women Driving the Next Generation!
Join us for our fourth annual “Driving Your Business: Women at the Wheel” event on September 21, 2016, at the Westchester Country Club. Three extraordinary millennial women CEOs and executives share their management secrets of success in what promises to be a revealing and informative leadership seminar. For more information, please contact Laura Di Diego at firstname.lastname@example.org.