This article is adapted from AQ’s special report on closing the gender gap.
History is full of unsung female heroes, from Cuba’s 19th century writer Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteaga to Ángela Ruiz Robles, pioneer of the e-book, to today’s outstanding women from all walks of life. But outside sports and show business, we seldom identify the women who excel in other disciplines — even though we know how important role models are in professional life. Here are five steps institutions and organizations can take to make sure women get the visibility they need to thrive — and inspire others to follow.
- Communication skills. Women will not fully leverage visibility opportunities unless they are good at communicating. Enroll women in training to build confidence in presentation abilities, practice and improve their communication and delivery skills, including presence, storytelling and persuasion, as well as, when needed, media skills. In this COVID-19 era, provide training for effective online communication, webinars, podcasts, teleconferencing platforms, etc.
- Projects. Offer qualified women opportunities to lead high-visibility projects at different levels of the organization in all types of functions. Encourage them to pursue these opportunities and fully recognize their roles. An essential step is to identify high-potential young women and give them the necessary support to thrive in high-visibility projects. Ensure qualified women have the right combination of mentors and sponsors who have the organizational clout to effectively help them. Ensure achievements are featured in the organization’s communication channels and outside channels.
- Public Recognition. Encourage women from all areas and levels of the organization to apply for industry or company awards and recognition. Ensure they have the proper support at the application level. If they receive a recognition, depending on institutional culture, ensure their achievements are featured in the organization’s communications channels.
- Networking. Provide women with access to high-quality networking opportunities. Whenever possible, promote their participation in high-visibility roles such as speakers, panelists or presenters. Encourage their participation in conferences, events, customer briefings, cross training, as well as online and offline professional communities and groups. Support and encourage membership in professional organizations.
- Representation. Numerous studies indicate that gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early. Girls are constantly faced with references that associate brilliance and genius with men more than with women. Parents as well as teachers need to constantly show girls examples of brilliant women alongside those of men. Furthermore, it is important to look closer to home for role models. Parents can facilitate casual encounters of their daughters with accomplished female friends and acquaintances. At schools and in community circles, invite outstanding women, particularly young women, to talk to and with students.
Grigsby is professor of leadership and marketing at INCAE Business School
Tags: Business, Gender, mentorship