24 April 2019

Why Developing Female Talent Can Give Your Company a Competitive Edge

Female Talent / The Power of Diversity


Aldeen Simmonds

The war on talent is becoming more intense as more qualified, ambitious and self-aware professionals enter the pool. As a result, we are quickly transitioning from an employer-dominated market to a dynamic candidate-driven market. As diversity in all facets enters our workplaces, greater discussions have started to emerge around diversity, inclusion and how to truly tie that to a business or corporate strategy and measure a return on investment (ROI). One of those discussions revolves around developing female talent and how that development could give your company a competitive edge.

Focusing on female talent

The value of diversity and inclusion is not always captured tangibly and therefore can be difficult to apprehend. One of the areas of focus for diversity and inclusion has included the development of female talent. Nowadays, developing female talent isn’t just good for business, it is fast becoming a key competitive advantage for progressive companies.

Diversity Matters
A course to help build diverse and inclusive organizations
Diversity Matters
A course to help build diverse and inclusive organizations

Indeed, according to Pew’s “Women and Leadership” survey, women in top executive positions are better at being more honest and ethical, providing fair pay and benefits, providing guidance or mentorship to young employees and being an effective spokesperson for their company.

developing female talent

Source: What Men and Women Bring to Business Leadership | Image via Pew Social Trends, 2015

So how are we doing with female inclusion?

We have a long way to go.

You may start to ask questions around ‘How?’ and ‘Why should I focus on developing female talent?’ The numbers speak for themselves. Like many great things that are ‘good’ for business however, the time from discovery to adoption is often longer than anticipated.

Indeed, it is clear that women are still underrepresented at every level, except entry level and in some mid-level roles. According to Payscale’s Gender Gap Report for 2018, women continue to be poorly represented at all levels, regardless of their career stage. They continue to be untapped resources in many areas of the organization.

developing female talent

Source: The State of the Gender Pay Gap in 2018 | Payscale


What keeps us from making the most of our pool of female talent?

Perhaps we defer to the norm and status quo. Or maybe we continue to use the same hiring methodologies, promotion schemes and anti-inclusion strategies that leave female talent stuck under the glass ceiling.

HR managers and other senior managers must ask themselves the following questions:

  • When was the last time that you updated your leave policies taking into consideration the requirements of maternity leave, returning to work with the need for breastfeeding or perhaps transitioning a toddler into daycare?
  • Does your company offer maternity leave pay or employer top-up payments to assist new mothers?
  • How many female leaders are currently identified and enrolled in your leadership program?
  • What percentage of your senior leadership team is female?
  • How many female candidates have you interviewed for your most recent senior leadership role?
  • What programs do you have in place to foster and support diversity and inclusion?

If you are unable to answer one or more of those questions, you still have a lot to do in order to create an inclusive culture and foster the development of your female talent.

Women continue to drop out of the workforce because of limited support to accommodate their needs, even though they want to be active contributors.

Further reading

The Parental Gender Earnings Gap in the United States looked at the pay gap between men and women before and after the birth of their children in 2017. Women continue to appear behind men in earnings. Despite the conversations, strategies and policies, companies are still behind in truly empowering and developing female talent.

developing female talent

Source: US Census Report: The Parental Gender Earnings Gap in the United States | 2017


Empowering and developing your female talent

What does empowerment look like in your organization?

Perhaps you have various levels of leadership programs, continuous improvement initiatives or even regular in-house courses, classes and seminars that stimulate and inspire talent.

As the story of the CEO and the CFO talking about talent goes; the CEO asks what if you train them and they leave? The CFO responds what if you don’t, and they stay?

How are you ensuring that the talent that comes through your door adds value? More specifically, how are you empowering your female talent to become strong contributors to your organizations?

Diversity Matters
A course to help build diverse and inclusive organizations
Diversity Matters
A course to help build diverse and inclusive organizations

Jack Zenger’s article in Forbes’ Magazine ‘3 Reasons To Recruit And Select More Female Leaders’, shared three main reasons to hire female talent. These reasons could also be used to support the business case for investing in your female employees:

1. Women leaders are highly qualified.  They continue to outperform men in demonstrating key leadership competencies and have more positive ratings from managers.

2. Women are more likely to seek out opportunities to learn and improve throughout their career. Zenger´s previous study on HBR looked at self-development assessments and found female career progress did not decline like their male counterparts as their careers progressed.

3. Organizations benefit from a more mixed-gender workplace. A mixed gender office could increase revenue by up to 41 percent according to a study from MIT.

The role of women in the future of work

Women are already wired for the future. Cheryl Cran, in her article ‘What will the future of work mean for women?’ shares some progressive views of the future and how female talent will contribute value. For instance, how women continue to lead their male counterparts with integrated ‘masculine and feminine skills’ that will be required to survive and remain relevant in the world of machine learning, artificial intelligence and robots.

Women have the ability to see multiple perspectives at once, creatively collaborate and inspire people into action. In addition to this, they excel at creating a collective team focus, moving individuals from ‘me’ to ‘we’ in order to achieve greater collaborative success.

Further reading

Technology is also helping women to break into industries and roles that would have been more physically demanding limiting. The limitations and challenges for female talent are quickly disappearing making it even more possible to be more inclusive at all organizational levels.

Developing to differentiate

Talent development today is a key differentiator in labor with a globalized candidate market and technology eliminating previously existing barriers. With these developments, diversity and inclusion play a key role in attracting, retaining and leveraging talent pools to provide the human capital required to drive business success. Companies will miss out if they are unable to truly acquire, develop, and utilize their female talent.

What is holding your organization back from unleashing your female talent? Are there new programs you could create to take advantage of the female knowledge and expertise in your organization? What can you do differently to ensure that females have fair and equal opportunities to excel in your organization? Your answers to those questions will open the doors for the necessary conversations and resultant actions that can help you create a more inclusive environment to develop and leverage your female talent.

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