With March being women’s history month, we always get an influx of “alerts” on issues of women’s leadership. The verdict is still mixed: some stories claim how far women have come and others cite the low numbers and lack of representation of women in the higher positions within the public sector.
At Lotus Leadership, we certainly feel this tension, organizationally and individually. Most women I speak to recognize the need for women’s leadership development and believe the environment is enhanced with the training is women-specific, however many executives or those in charge of employee development and learning feel like the glass ceiling is a thing of the past and that the women need to roll up their sleeves and get in there with the guys and work their way through (and up) the company positions.
So which is it? Do women still need their own leadership development or should we all just accept the progress that has been made and attempt a genderless approach to leadership development?
The answer: we need to do both.
Attempting to do only one or the other is what causes the tension. Yes, women have their own unique experience with the workplace, their role in it, with power, with voice, and many other organizational issues—society is still very gendered and always will be—so women will benefit from training and development that focuses on women-specific issues. However, women and men have to work together every day and the gender dynamic is something that affects leadership. There are many “general” topics that will benefit women and men equally: leading effective teams, emotional intelligence, transforming culture, and many, many more.
The bottom line: women (and men, too), need to be proactive about their leadership development. Attend a women and leadership conference for inspiration, motivation and education. And then, make sure your company dedicates some resources to overall leadership development. A continued commitment to leadership development is the only way you will maximize your capacity to effectively lead.