You only have to take a look at the news in recent months to see that the topic of increasing women on boards continues to be the source of much debate across the globe. But are we too focused on this need to meet quotas and in doing so, are we missing the crucial point – that businesses actually do better when there are more women in leadership and management positions.
The reality is that far from being a numbers game, there are real business benefits to be gained from more balanced boards, the type that make a tangible difference to the bottom line. If we delve into this point further, we find there is not just an issue of recruiting women into the business in the first place; there is an even bigger challenge of retaining them once they are there. There are many well-documented practices that can support retention, but it can often be difficult to know which mix of approaches will work best.
So what can be done to maximise engagement, motivation, productivity and retention of women in the workplace? I believe that embracing the concept of ‘Leading as a Host’ is a key approach that can help achieve this outcome.
Firstly, it needs to be acknowledged that we don’t simply need more women, but more of what women bring to these environments – nurturing, energy, intuition, gentle wisdom, listening and more. That’s not to say that men can’t do these as well, as some do them very well, but these things are all stereotypically, and very generally, more natural traits of women.
…it needs to be acknowledged that we don’t simply need more women, but more of what women bring to these environments
Male and female leadership may be considered to have generally different traits; male leadership may be seen as more ‘heroic’, with a focus on expertise, telling people what to do and having all the answers. Female leadership may be seen as more valuing of diversity, inclusion, understanding and building on strengths, stepping back, drawing out answers from others, nurturing talent, growth and not needing to have all the answers.
The big question that needs answering is ‘what prevails in our organisation?’ This may be very different to what the organisation is saying it wants, but what is really happening in practice? Consider key factors, such as what gets valued? What are the behaviours? How do we support both men and women to be themselves, bringing who they are into their work knowing it will be valued, respected and listened to? That said, getting women to WANT to progress in the first place is a much bigger issue than simply facilitating growth and development for those who already strive for it. It is about creating the conditions for a different way of leading.
…getting women to WANT to progress in the first place is a much bigger issue
Research has found that organisations that focus on engagement with leaders/managers and employees experience greater success than those who simply lead. It is clear therefore, that the art of hosting is becoming a crucial aspect of leadership and an important skill that needs to be learnt.
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Helen Bailey is the co-author of ‘Host: Six new roles of engagement for teams, organisations, communities, movements’. For more information visit www.hostleadership.com.