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Is Your Organization Supporting Paths to Develop Women as Leaders?

Zainab Hameed, CGEIT, CISA, PMP, SheLeadsTech Liaison, IT Governance Consultant and Social Entrepreneur
| Posted at 3:03 PM by ISACA News | Category: ISACA | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (0)

Zainab HameedIs your organization supporting women in reaching leadership positions? Why is this important?

A global study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that corporations that went from having no women in corporate leadership to 30 percent in leadership roles saw a one-percentage-point increase in net margin — which translates to a 15 percent increase in profitability for a typical firm.

Having a culture that supports women growing as leaders in the organization is important, whether you are a female leader and want to make a good career decision or you are a leader who recognizes the importance of a diverse leadership team as a key factor in increasing long-term profitability.

The following signs are indicators of an organization’s emphasis on creating an inclusive culture and providing equal opportunities to men and women for advancement and recognition.

Setting the Tone at the Top
Like other cultural cues, the tone at the top drives this culture and availability of key roles for women. To evaluate top leadership’s commitment to diversity, ask the CEO the following three questions:

  1. Do you think diversity is important?
  2. What is the direct impact on profitability when women occupy leadership positions?
  3. Are there any cultural benefits, or other benefits, to having an affirmative diversity program?

The responses would immediately provide a good understanding of the organization’s culture regarding inclusivity and diversity.

Current Gender Balance in Leadership Positions
According to ISACA’s Tech Workforce 2020: The Age and Gender Perception Gap, 30 percent of women say they are facing unequal growth opportunities and only 59 percent of women say their employers have a program to encourage the promotion/advancement of women. Organizations need to provide support for women to grow to leadership positions.

Ask the following to assess the situation for your organization: Are there women in leadership roles in the organization? What percentage of a management team are women? What functions do they represent? Are females employed only in support roles only or do they also occupy business critical roles?

Having female leaders also serves to provide role models for other women aspiring to careers in technology-related fields.

Formal Diversity Programs and Women’s Networks
Diversity programs and women’s networks indicate that there are formal and informal channels of support for women. These programs help in retention by giving women a forum to discuss specific challenges, create strategies to overcome them and hence contribute to the overall growth of women within the organization.

Women in Middle Management
Just having women at the top is not enough. To foster a gender-inclusive workplace, women need to be hired, supported and trained for all levels and groomed to reach top positions. This is only possible if women are present in middle management, leading teams and driving value for business. This is where they also build their networks and acquire sponsors to help them grow to leadership positions.

Mentoring Programs
Are women part of mentoring programs, as both mentors and mentees? Are women given equal mentoring opportunities? Growing to a leadership position requires one to be a high performer, but also requires mentors and sponsors to help them navigate through the challenges. According to the Tech Workforce 2020 research, a top obstacle in career advancement for women is lack of mentors.

Enabling Policies
According to the Tech Workforce 2020 research, there is a gender perception gap. Men seem to think more is being done to recruit, retain and promote women than women think is being done. Sixty-five percent of men say their employers have a program to encourage the hiring of women, whereas only 51 percent of women agree.

Does the organization have policies that support the needs of women, especially to attract more women and grow them into leadership positions?

Does the organization support working from home; flexible time; support for child-care, especially in emergencies; and have recruitment policies that encourage women to apply, as well as other policies that would help to attract and retain women and provide an environment in which they can thrive?

Conclusion
Does your organization meet the above criteria? Have leaders in your organization embedded a culture to empower and elevate women? The above indicators help employees to understand and evaluate the nature of the organization better, or help leaders who want to assess their organizational culture and attract a diverse pool of talent to make the company more successful.

Whatever the vantage point, you will be creating a more profitable organization by having more women in leadership roles.

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