By Juliane Sterzl, VP at CoachHub
The annual International Women’s Day carries with it two contrasting but equally powerful messages: the first, and most immediately obvious, is the celebration of the achievements of women all around the world and the reiteration that the fight for global gender equality is still ongoing.
The second message is a reminder that the day itself should be about far more than the one day in the calendar; business tweets and celebrations in nothing but name have only a limited impact.
The true value of International Women’s Day is achieved with the genuine, year-round projects and initiatives to help women reach their true potential. In the world of work, we are seeing an increasing number of programmes to support women with their progression and remove the barriers to leadership roles. While not every business is able to run a dedicated programme, many more are turning to solutions such as coaching, which can support women on an individual, company-wide or even national scale.
The good news is that we are increasingly seeing this trend towards supporting women in business in sectors where gender equality has traditionally been an issue, such as financial services. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is one organisation we’re working with to offer women in leadership initiatives, helping to reduce both gender and wage gaps in the workplace, and conversation around the topic has sparked a re-examination of the way we support and promote women in business.
Research has consistently shown that women make excellent managers when properly supported, with employees working under a female manager reporting increased engagement, career progression, and overall team cohesion. Yet despite this success, women still only account for 1 in 3 managerial roles across Europe. If businesses are to tap into the vital leadership skills that women can provide, they will need to invest in personalised programmes to ensure women are able to reach the very top levels of their companies.
One way to do this is to match women with a business coach, who can develop a personalised plan for continuous professional development. Often it’s not the case that women lack the skills to succeed, but rather lack the one-on-one time to really focus on their individual challenges and how to overcome them. With this in mind, there are three key areas to focus on to help women reach their full potential at work.
Strategic thinking and career planning
There have been numerous studies into the gender pay gap that have concluded that women are less likely to negotiate a salary increase or ask for a promotion; one study from Warwick University estimated that just 12.5% of women negotiated their starting salary, versus 52% of men. While there are many different reasons for this, having a trusted coach to provide an objective opinion can make a huge difference when it comes to career development. It is in the business interest to promote from within and for everyone to perform at their best; coaching can help to make sure you retain top talent whilst improving satisfaction and engagement.
Overcoming self-doubt and limiting beliefs
Perhaps surprisingly, employees are often their own biggest barrier to success. This can especially be the case for female employees. According to one survey by My Confidence Matters, 79% of women report experiencing a debilitating lack of self-confidence at work, despite the majority of these women expressing a desire to take on senior management roles in the future. This can be a difficult subject to tackle for many, and can be made more difficult by the fear of discussing perceived inadequacies with a senior figure in a position of power. In this case, a trusted, independent coach can serve as sounding board for worries and fears, and can help to challenge these limiting assumptions by setting realistic and achievable goals.
Improving visibility and influence
It is important for young girls and women starting out their careers that they have positive role models to aspire to. A historical lack of women at the top of their respective fields or companies has added to the gender disparity, particularly in terms of career ambitions. Successful female business coaches are perfectly placed to advise and inspire the next generation of female leaders, and help them achieve their true potential, whatever the barriers. Connecting experienced coaches from a range of sectors with female employees within your organisation can help to bring new ideas, fresh thinking, and to showcase alternative ways of working which can ultimately be used in the workplace.
About the author
CoachHub’s Vice President of UK and Ireland, Juliane Sterzl, leads CoachHub’s rapidly growing UK&I team, currently in the process of doubling in size to 20 staff by mid-2020. Juliane’s diverse and extensive international experience in Germany and the UK attributes to her success in building and leading multi-cultural commercial teams. Having started her career working with leading technology vendors at Gartner, she more recently specialised in supporting HR & L&D professionals as Regional Vice President at Skillsoft and Regional Head of Sales at LinkedIn.