Women leaders perform better, stay at their companies longer, and advance in their careers when organizations address four strategic dimensions: culture, talent systems, professional development for women, and executive action.
Dr. Jill Ihsanullah of Linkage and Dr. Nada Hashmi of Babson College examined decades of research, including the results of 360° assessments of women leaders at organizations across the United States, to identify and describe the dimensions that most impact the advancement of women leaders.
“The gender gap in leadership has been made clear over the past few decades in a multitude of ways,” said Jill, who serves as Linkage’s principal researcher and thought leader on gender and leadership. “With this new research, Dr. Hashmi and I are delighted to contribute to the discussion about this problem—and the specific ways to solve it.”
For organizations looking to meet and exceed their goals related to the advancement of women leaders, Jill points to the need for a strong framework. “The situation for many organizations looking to achieve gender parity is comparable to trying to cook a gourmet meal without a proven recipe, or possibly even without ingredients,” said Jill. “The framework and findings presented in this research will help companies identify where their biggest areas of opportunity are—and which levers to pull to really move the needle for women.”
Among the insights in the new report:
- Culture: Women’s sense of belonging is 22% higher in cultures where they feel respected.
- Executive Action: Highly effective women are 7x more likely to be found at organizations where executives creatively work to retain female talent.
- Talent Systems: Highly effective women leaders are 2x more likely to be found in organizations with fair, people-related decision-making processes.
- Focused Leadership Development for Women: Women leaders are 7x more likely to be highly engaged if they are encouraged to take on growth opportunities.
For Jill, who has worked with thousands of women leaders, the findings are validating.
“Sometimes, even when you know something in your gut or have witnessed it in individual organizations, seeing huge effects in data like this can still take your breath away,” said Jill. “I was amazed by the breadth and depth of the impact of leadership development on women. And I was surprised by the extent to which executive action affects not only women’s belief in their future with the organization but their effectiveness as well.”
The research has informed the Advancing Women Leaders practice at Linkage, which empowers companies to take active steps to improve the environment for women and all members of underrepresented groups and develop individual women leaders.