How Can Women Advance in HR Leadership

by Srikant Chellappa Dec 4,2023

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

It is no secret that women are powerful agents of change. Women are more inclusive and open to taking divergent views. They also bring fresh perspectives and unique ideas to the table. However, their leadership role has been overlooked for generations; their incredible impact on an organization’s success is still underestimated. McKinsey & Company’s Women in the Workplace 2021 report highlights that inadvertent or targeted biases in the corporate ecosystem diminish women’s ability to rise to C-suite roles.

This practice of offering the majority of leadership roles to their male counterparts has been further backed by a study. It says that 29% of women already feel their gender gets in the way of their way up the organizational ladder. It’s essential to note that this doesn’t imply men are more qualified for leadership positions than women. Rather, the observed gender disparity in leadership often stems from biases related to gender stereotypes and perceived competence.

So, how can organizations foster a work environment that offers more leadership opportunities for women in the workplace? Before that, let’s learn how female leaders drive organizations’ success.

Also read: How To Add More Women in Leadership Roles 

Benefits of Having Women in HR Leadership Teams

When a company empowers its female workforce to take command of human resources, it is bound to benefit everyone. Decades of studies in psychology and evidence-based reports outline how women’s leadership can help boost productivity, inspire teamwork and dedication, and mitigate bias. Their innate leadership skills often go unnoticed, but the worth and potential of most women as powerful leaders cannot be denied. Discover what sets them apart with these six reasons why they excel in HR leadership positions.

  • Fresh Perspective

Unique perspectives abound with female leadership, as they bring various skills that effectively solve problems. Their heightened awareness and ability to attend to detail offer a distinctive approach that can benefit companies structurally and culturally. With a vision for the big picture, women leaders analyze minute details, becoming valuable assets for their organizations. 

  • Leadership Qualities

Recent research indicates women are more effective in 84% of the competencies required to be a good leader. These competencies include confidence, clarity of thought, resilience, self-development, enthusiasm, determination, and displaying high integrity and honesty.

  • More Empathetic

Of all the traits, empathy is often considered one of the greatest superpowers of a female. Women’s empathetic leadership style influences others and builds trust, increasing productivity and efficiency. Additionally, this leadership style facilitates the exchange of ideas and the generation of fresh perspectives about processes.

  • Excellent Communication Skills

Leadership and workplace communication go hand in hand. A great leader must communicate effectively, inspiring and motivating the team. While some male bosses excel as good orators, women tend to express themselves more eloquently than men. Additionally, they excel at perceiving body language and feelings while being good listeners

  • Better at Crisis Management

Working women, especially mothers, are seasoned caregivers who can manage and handle crises with compassion and patience. In a crisis, such as tight deadlines, staff shortages, or team conflicts, women are more competent than their male counterparts.

  • Powerful Mentors

The significance of effective mentoring and coaching cannot be ignored in the workplace. Women are more understanding, determined, skilled, intuitive, and focused on self-development than men, which makes them great mentors and coaches. They share their wisdom and experience and help employees navigate career challenges. They inspire new ways of thinking and motivate mentees to develop creative solutions at work.

All these qualities or traits make women highly competent leaders, according to those who work closely with them. However, they still fail to move up the organizational ladder. What’s keeping them from advancing in their careers is not a lack of capability but a dearth of opportunity! This brings us to the strategies organizations can devise to promote women in leadership positions.

Also read: This Study Says That You Should Hire More Female Leaders

6 Strategies to Promote Women in Human Resource Leadership

Women in HR leadership1. Create a Safe Psychological Environment for Women

Investing in the psychological safety of your employees is vital for cultivating a culture of equality and growth. Psychological safety entails ensuring that employees are not humiliated or penalized for taking risks or admitting mistakes. When female employees feel mentally secure, they are more inclined to unleash their creativity. Employers should strive to establish a work environment where women feel secure to:

  • Share and contribute ideas
  • Learn new things
  • Question the status quo
Also read: 5 Employee Mental Health Initiatives For Your Organization

2. Focus on Internal Promotion

The internal talent pool is always the best way to fill vacancies in an organization. It promotes female employee engagement by giving them opportunities to grow in their career. Promoting female employees from within the organization’s current talent pool can have additional benefits, including:

  • Saves time and money
  • Eliminates the need for the onboarding process
  • Increases employee loyalty
  • Increased representation of women in leadership positions in the workplace

3. Take Women-Oriented Initiatives

Organizations must support and invest in women’s initiatives and events at work. For instance, organize seminars, conferences, and events to encourage aspiring female leaders to gain confidence, skills, and expertise. Invite women leaders from the same or other industries to deliver lectures to inspire more budding women leaders in the organization. These guest speakers can also share their challenges and how to overcome them.

Another way to support women’s leadership is to offer internal learning and development programs. It helps women identify career goals, acquire the necessary skills, and develop leadership abilities.

Adobe is one such company that has introduced an executive mentorship program for female employees. The program allows women to rise to higher positions, negotiate salary raises more effectively, and build social capital in a male-dominated corporate landscape.

Also read: Unique Ways to Support Wellness in the Workplace

4. Remove Biases About Working Mothers

One of the common challenges faced by working women revolves around biases and assumptions regarding their career aspirations after becoming mothers. Managers or supervisors may assume certain roles or responsibilities may not be suitable for a woman with children.

It’s crucial for managers to recognize that having kids doesn’t negatively impact women; in fact, it often enhances their professional capabilities. Working mothers bring a wealth of life experiences that seamlessly translate into their professional domains. These women routinely encounter and overcome various challenges in both personal and work spheres. Additionally, they frequently demonstrate high levels of motivation, multitasking abilities, and drive, inspiring others and fostering success within their teams.

Also read: 9 Ways To Tackle Unconscious Bias At Work

5. Eliminate Gender Bias in Pay

Data from Visier Solutions Inc. reveals that a female employee earned 77 cents for every dollar earned by a male counterpart; in 2020, that amount was 83 cents. The management must ensure wage transparency across the organization to level the playing field for working women. Moreover, organizations must work toward disrupting occupational segregation, increasing accessibility to paid leave and child care, and creating equity in gender pay.

6. Offer Work Flexibility

This is particularly important in the case of working mothers. Most women quit their jobs or refuse promotions to care for their family and kids. Offering more flexible schedules that accommodate family and work hours would help women pursue their career goals.

Bumble is one organization that has effectively embraced this strategy and has 85% of the workforce made up of women. To better accommodate women employees, the organization maintains a flexible interpretation of work hours and allows parents to bring their children to the office as required.

Also read: This Study Says That You Should Hire More Female Leaders

Summing Up

In today’s corporate landscape, fostering a greater number of female leaders is essential. While empowering women in leadership roles may seem challenging, it is achievable with support and active participation from everyone in the company, irrespective of gender.  By creating an inclusive and supportive environment, companies can tap into a wealth of diverse perspectives and skills that female leaders bring to the table. Recognizing and valuing the unique contributions of women in leadership not only enhances workplace dynamics but also contributes to overall organizational success.

Engagedly offers a platform to make the HR process more seamless and transparent. Our cloud-based software strives to help businesses create more leadership opportunities for women with effective performance evaluation, training, and compensation management. Schedule a demo today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the difference between a glass ceiling and a glass cliff effect?

The glass ceiling refers to the invisible and societal obstacles that keep women from moving up the career ladder and assuming leadership roles in an organization. The glass cliff is, however, the opposite practice. It refers to a situation wherein a female employee is elevated to positions of power during a crisis. This pushes a woman leader into a precarious situation to take control when things are falling apart.

Q2. What is tokenism?

Tokenism refers to an act wherein the employer pretends to believe in certain workplace practices but does not follow policies to support their implementation. For instance, managers may hire a candidate from underrepresented groups to create the appearance of racial or gender equality in the workplace but fail to implement workplace diversity and inclusion practices to support the action.

Q3. What does the maternal wall theory say?

Maternal wall refers to a workplace bias where working mothers or pregnant employees are considered less competent and less committed toward work.

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2024.

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