Improving Gender Equity in Staffing: Leadership Development Is the Key

I grew up steeped in women’s empowerment. At the all-girls school I attended, we were encouraged to take up space and use our voice. We were told, “You can be anything.” It was a privilege not many women get.

But as I took those words to heart, I realized one thing was missing — guidance on how to put them into action. This void is a key driver for me embracing my current role at ClearEdge Rising, a career accelerator and leadership development program for women in recruiting and workforce solutions.

While we know organizations rich in gender diversity experience better outcomes, women remain underrepresented in leadership roles.

For every 100 men promoted to first-level manager, only 87 women are promoted. Current predictions estimate it will take 136 years to close the gender gap  — though I firmly believe it doesn’t have to.

Our industry can lead the charge by providing women with leadership development opportunities rich in learning and community.

For Women in Leadership, the Journey Is as Important as the Destination

Women bring unique perspectives and invaluable experience that foster greater creativity and innovation. That’s why enabling gender equity is so important.

Think about women leaders in your organization. If you’re a woman, think about your journey. Think about what it takes — overcoming challenges, biases and microaggressions — to advance along the career path.

Women often have to make more concessions, sacrifices and compromises in the pursuit of leadership roles. When we don’t see ourselves represented, it becomes harder to believe it’s possible, harder to face the challenges that are unique to us as women and harder to find women who we can aspire to emulate.

You have the power to change this.

Increasing access to leadership development programs, especially those rooted in a community of other women, is crucial to accelerating the advancement and retention of women within your organization.

PREMIUM CONTENT: June 2023 US Jobs Report

4 Actionable Steps to Improve Gender Equity and Professional Development

Women cannot affect change in a vacuum. It takes the support of everyone, at every level. Here are four meaningful steps you can take to prioritize women’s leadership development and create more equitable opportunities from the start:

Assess your company’s processes for hiring/promotions/advancement. Review the criteria you consider: Is it too narrow? Is it based solely on tenure, or skills and the ability to grow into a role?

Create a support community within your organization. Consider forming an Employee Resource Group (ERG) or a similar group that focuses on providing specific support measures and mechanisms that all employees can turn to.

Establish a clear, holistic plan for diversifying your leadership. Change starts from within. Creating a strategic plan that’s adopted internally, with defined metrics that are tracked and measured, helps you achieve AND maintain top-level diversity.

Sponsor women’s involvement in leadership development programs. Not a one-off class. Not an online certificate. Rather, multi-faceted programs that foster inspiration and mutual support, build skills and create connections.

By embracing these steps, you can amplify the impact of staffing industry gender equity efforts already underway. SIA has its Global Power 150 — Women in Staffing list. The Women’s Business Collaborative, with support from the ASA, NAPs, SIA and TechServe Alliance, released an annual survey on gender equity in staffing. From annual events, interest groups, best-of lists and podcasts, we’ve seen more efforts around gender equity than ever before.

Empower Women, Empower Your Organization

I believe building up ALL leaders is important, although there are challenges unique to a woman’s experience that can be addressed by extending additional development opportunities to level the playing field.

And it makes good business sense. Companies in the top quartile for executive team gender diversity are 25% more likely to have above-average profitability. The success of women leaders leads to success for all.

Moving forward, it will take more than women striving for progress alone. Companies have the opportunity to take meaningful action to support women on the path to leadership.

With this in mind, I believe the staffing industry can serve as a gender equity model to which others can aspire — without waiting 136 years.

Ashley Andersen

Ashley Andersen
Ashley Andersen is senior VP of ClearEdge Rising.

Ashley Andersen

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