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Five Things You Can Do To Boost Female Talent… Even If You’re Not the CEO

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“It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.” – President Barack Obama

And with those words tucked snugly within his recent State of The Union address, the president wittingly used popular culture to change, well, popular culture by encouraging business to attract, retain and develop more female leaders. Today, for the first time, Edelman is being recognized for precisely that by being named one of the Top Companies for Executive Women for 2014 by the National Association for Female Executives.

It’s a recognition that will hopefully inspire other companies to take on the same goal that our CEO, Richard Edelman, did two and half years ago of having women fill 50 percent of our senior leadership roles by 2016 – a goal that is coming to life via our Global Women’s Executive Network (GWEN), which helps enable women to lead, grow and succeed at our company.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a CEO to make a significant impact. Here are five things any of us can do at your workplace to help ensure women attain better representation in leadership roles:

  1. Remember there is power in numbers. Educate leadership and colleagues by highlighting the positive impact on the bottom line. A 2010 global survey of executives found that 72 percent agree that there is a direct connection between gender diversity and business success, but only 28 percent say it is a top-10 priority for senior leadership. McKinsey & Company found that companies with three or more women on their senior management team scored higher on all nine organizational criteria (from leadership and direction to accountability and motivation — higher organizational scores correlates to higher operating margins) than did companies with no senior-level women.
  2. Encourage advocacy of women. Mentorship is great. Sponsorship is greater. Advocate for women when they’re not in the room. Recent research by the Center for Talent Innovation, an organization founded by Sylvia Ann Hewitt, shows “how sponsorship — unlike mentorship, its weaker cousin — makes a measurable difference in career progress.” Sponsors should promote the employee’s accomplishments in front of her peers and throughout the company. “When a company formally or informally encourages its senior leaders to mentor and sponsor women, the company becomes a better place to work for women overall, and more women are promoted into senior ranks,” according to Alisa Cohn, an executive coach, in “How Companies Can Attract Top Female Employees.”
  3. Promote from within. Too often companies overemphasize recruitment and underemphasize retention and development. If a company really wants to attract and retain top female talent, it must make more effort in the area of talent development,” says Adrienne Graham, a 20-year recruiting veteran and founder of EmpowerMe! When young women see other women working their way up the proverbial ladder, they realize it’s possible for them to climb too.
  4. Support flexible schedules. “For a company looking to remain competitive and attract top talent, the solution is to find small ways to incorporate flexibility into the organization,” says Allison O’Kelly, founder and CEO of Mom Corps. For many female executives, flexibility (remote work, flex schedules) can be key and can help a business retain talent and build loyalty.
  5. Share your secrets. It’s important for women to be vocal about how they prioritize and achieve success. For me, that means having dinner with my kids each night. I talk openly about my desire to get home to enjoy that precious time. I happily work at night and early in the morning, but I feel a responsibility to articulate it so that others can feel comfortable making similar choices.

Remember, you don’t have to be a CEO to be in a position to make a positive change. After all, in the classic words of Mad Men’s Don Draper: “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

Gail Becker is Edelman’s president of strategic partnerships and global integration.

Image by mylifeinplastic.com.
  • Carolina Pietoso

    I am proud to work in a company with such great women in the leadership. Gail, you are so right in this post and I have seen many times you act on these things yourself. Thank you for that!

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