Gallup Chief Operating Officer
Dear Business Executives:
As we honor International Women's Day, let's talk frankly: We aren't moving fast enough to increase the number of women in leadership positions within our organizations. And we have no excuse.
It's time to pick up the pace. It's time to relentlessly recruit for the future of our organizations.
Gallup has asked millions of women and men what they want from their workplaces and out of life. We've studied their engagement, wellbeing and strengths. We've found that women and men want many of the same things. And they also want different things.
We've also learned that most organizations are falling short in an important area: retaining the talented women who could (and should) be developed for leadership.
What's the problem? Few organizational cultures are giving women (and men) what they need to raise families and rise to leadership.
That is, there's a gap that makes it difficult for women to work full-time jobs, shoulder family caregiving and climb the ladder.
It's not that they can't -- they can and are -- but organizations have outdated policies and leaders and managers who aren't embracing the future of work.
As a result, talented women are leaving for bigger and better things.
Here's the bottom line: Your organization won't be able to compete for exceptional talent until you implement major structural and policy changes that transform your culture into one that is high-performing and inclusive, respectful and caring.
How can you quickly create change to bring more women into leadership positions?
In two ways:
- Recruit and develop women (like there's no tomorrow).
- Retain them with a culture that meets their needs.
Recruit and Develop
Let's use a sports analogy.
Winning sports teams and organizations don't wait for talent to come knocking. Their leaders spend countless hours and resources attracting and recruiting star players to win.
Then they put their money where their mouth is: They continually coach individuals and teams to help them achieve their fullest potential.
Great coaches also know that not everyone (man or woman) wants to play volleyball, run track or shoot hoops. So they find the stars who want to go for the championship -- and they help them get there.
The same is true at your organization.
The best executives lead the initiative on recruiting current and future executive female talent.
They attract, recruit and select those who want the rigor, the achievement, the thrill of success, and yes, even the sting of defeat.
Those women are definitely out there, but it's your job to find them. It's your job to search (internally and externally) for women who want to be executives -- and then show them the roadmap to get there.
Unfortunately, this isn't occurring nearly enough within large organizations (or more women would be choosing to join the corporate world).
That is, there aren't enough women "in the game" because leaders aren't actively recruiting them. Nor are women finding a game with clear rules, expectations or outcomes -- let alone a winning attitude from a leader who has skin in the game for their success.
Women want to be recruited, needed and asked to play. They want to be coached with tough feedback and get tons of recognition for what they are doing well. If you meet these needs, they will become some of your best players ever.
Women have endless opportunities to be productive and purposeful. They don't have time for an organization with fuzzy expectations, pay that isn't clearly linked to performance and written policies that don't play out in real life.
Yet, sadly, many work cultures tell women to "lean in," find their own mentor and demand enough money (or get paid less than a man for the same work).
Why are we still negotiating pay like old-school car salesmen? Would we allow sports teams to negotiate their scores? Heck no. Because that isn't how you play to win.
As leaders, we must ensure that compensation pays the position, not the person. We must use unbiased systems that are role-specific and performance-oriented -- so that individuals from every demographic are selected for and paid for the job.
This should be a given.
Our cultures must also offer women (and men) the flexibility to focus on their families for a season. Many women want leadership roles but need support and freedom throughout the child-rearing years to get there.
If we don't offer that flexibility, fewer women will cross the finish line to the C-suite. We risk losing them before they can win.
Listening and responding to women's opinions and ideas is just as important. Both men and women need to know their perspectives matter at work -- but working women in the U.S. aren't as convinced as men that this is the case.
Further, most organizations lack the right metrics and analytics to ensure men and women perfectly understand what is expected of them -- and what it takes to rise through the ranks and get paid at the highest levels.
This type of understanding is a basic, fundamental employee need. If your culture fails to accommodate it, your people will never reach their full performance potential -- and neither will your organization.
The Time to Act Is Yesterday
As leaders, we all want to create the best teams and the most competitive organizations. And we can't do it without talented women.
So we must create a workplace that gives all employees what they need to flourish. When we make organizations better for women, we make life better for men, kids and ultimately society. We all win.
We must recruit and retain women with the strengths and talent to drive excellence, cultural transformation and business outcomes.
Now, go find them. No more excuses.
Read more stories about women around the world on our International Women's Day page.