I have heard hundreds of reasons women’s initiatives in the Fortune 500 and AmLaw200 have done nothing to move the needle on women in leadership positions across all sectors of the economy.
McKinsey & Co. has shed more light than most on this issue, including its recent release of the fifth report in its Women Matter series. This one analyzes the reasons why these initiatives so often often break down and what to do about it.
McKinsey’s first prescription is to get “top down, visible commitment from the CEO “in setting up the program for success.
The second is for the company to have
a good measurement of where the women are (and aren’t) in the company, and what the challenges for advancement are.
Next, it has to implement an initiative designed to “influence the mindsets that halt women’s progress.”
And finally, it needs to put in place targeted programs to address weak points that are specific to the company itself.
In answering the question what a successful women’s initiative might look like , the linked Glass Hammer article describes a successful program at Ernst and Young.
The firm noticed that while many women were being suggested for positions, they were still getting passed over for promotion. Because sponsor relationships are key to advancement, the firm designed a 3-year program, in which 30 high performing women were paired up with an executive board member and a coach, so that they could gain access to decision makers.
The program didn’t fly women to the moon, but it did move the needle on promotion, from 6 percent in 1999 to 15 percent in 2004 and to 21% today, breaking past the place most companies and law firms are stuck, somewhere in the teens.