Tackling Women’s Unique Needs in Leadership Development

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D2L has enjoyed facilitating a webinar series entitled “Tackling Women’s Unique Needs in Leadership Development.” As organizations work to remove barriers and facilitate paths for women in positions of leadership and influence, building a robust and evidence-based leadership development program is a must.

Webinar #1- Confidence Gap

In our first webinar, we tackled the polarizing concept of a ‘confidence gap.’ You can have a listen here.
We looked at:

  • What the ‘confidence gap’ looks like for women
  • How our leadership development structures and processes might not support the closing of this confidence gap
  • Potential evidence based methods to close the confidence gap via leveraging leadership development processes

Webinar #2- Personal Brand

In our second webinar, we looked at personal branding and how leadership development efforts might support women’s increased understanding of the concept. Have a listen here.

We reviewed:

  • How women’s voices can be minimized or silenced
  • What personal branding or presence is and how it relates to women’s leadership and influence
  • Potential methods for leveraging leadership development programs to build female leaders’ personal brand and presence

Constructive Feedback

Not surprisingly, in both webinars, and as we anticipated, we were faced with some criticism or curious questioning around why:

  • We’re focusing on what women could and/or should do
  • We weren’t looking at addressing some of the historical, systemic, patriarchal, less heteronormative and layered organizational and societal challenges that women are up against and
  • We’re focusing on a ‘women’s only’ leadership development program- bringing up concerns about men’s missing voices and participation in the bigger dialogue

These are critical and valid questions.

As we aren’t looking to suggest a program that ‘does it all,’ here’s the ’why’ behind the focus areas for our webinars:

  1. Our suggestions are specifically to help those who are creating a leadership development program with women in mind. In other words, a program meant specifically to offer an opportunity for those involved to grow and develop- as they live within a more challenging environment. Our focus is small and based on the individual. There are other programs and companies and individuals working hard at the more systemic challenges mentioned above. And they are worthy and critical. It’s just not the focus of our webinar series.
  2. As varied individuals and companies continue to work at the systemic issues, we are left with women. Women who may be navigating a muddy, complex and unsupportive environment. Our purpose was to explore development opportunities to allow women to be more anchored in a) what they value, b) what they bring to the table, c) who they truly are, d) what they actually want and e) how they will authentically express it all while we wait for the impacts of the more macro level work.
  3. Like employee resource groups, having a program for women only is based on the notion to offer a space based on shared experiences- which, especially in the early stages of growth and development, might offer a safer space. In general, the decision to have a more generalized or women’s only program should depend on what you are ultimately trying to achieve. For us, we are focusing on skills: confidence, self-promotion and branding, inner critic, expressing needs and desires, etc. that our research suggests are often unique to women. So, offering a space for women only to dissect and dialogue around these issues and practice skill development is important. It does not preclude building out opportunities for broader dialogue and collaboration when appropriate.

We will continue to focus on providing you with evidence based content that we hope you will try – if you are tasked with developing a program meant specifically to offer a developmental opportunity for women. Will these narrowly focused/women only programs contribute to the greater cultural change efforts for gender equity? Maybe indirectly. Or maybe not. Regardless, we believe investments in individual women is just as worthy a cause. We believe that supporting women to get deeply anchored and to gain clarity in all these areas will make a difference for that woman. And hopefully, she will leave that program better equipped to influence and lead and have an impact.

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