Five proactive steps to encourage women in business

Five proactive steps to encourage women in business

We’re seeing more organisations in our region taking a wholehearted approach to leadership. Leaders are engaging their teams by directly connecting with them, focussing on their development needs and creating more inclusive work environments. This focus on people naturally helps employers to develop a culture where both genders can thrive. Here’s five simple tips to help create a more people-friendly workplace and a culture in which men and women feel supported and encouraged to progress. 

1. Show encouragement and give employees a voice

Despite having all the knowledge, intelligence, skills and expertise, some people are held back by their own self-doubt when it comes to climbing the career ladder. Often referred to as ‘Imposter syndrome’, research by McKinsey shows that more women than men are likely to experience this. Help develop their confidence and self-belief by looking for opportunities to get them involved in projects which are crucial to the business, empower them to take on broader responsibilities and open the way for them to proactively contribute in meetings and discussions.  

2. Coaching and mentoring  

Coaching and mentoring can help people to realise their full potential and to develop their own authentic leadership style. Find opportunities to match up-and-coming talent with sponsors, mentors or coaches. This could be from within the organisation itself, or via external networking and business growth schemes. While many people seek a mentor or sponsor of the same gender because they perceive there will be more common ground, research by Cambridge University suggests that picking a mentor of the opposite gender will help people to appreciate what the workplace looks like from a different point of view.

3. Flexibility makes all the difference

Flexible working practices give families more choice about how they manage their households and helps both parents to successfully progress their careers. Flexibility can come in many forms and bring additional business benefits. Extending business hours so employees can come in earlier, or leave later, can also benefit customers by increasing the time in which the organisation is contactable. BT found that productivity increased by 30% when employees were able to work flexibly and Unison reported that providing flexible working reduced sickness absence from 12% to 2%. Flexible working may not be suitable for all businesses but the overall aim should still be on developing a company culture which is focussed on results and outcomes and not the amount of time spent in the office.

4. Monitor your talent pipeline

Start from the beginning when exploring the talent pipeline. Is there an equal balance of men and women joining the organisation and at what point does the number of women start to decline? To make any changes, you need to know why people fail to climb the career ladder at your organisation. Are women being put off going for promotion because they perceive director roles in a certain way? Are their female role models and are junior employees aware of the career progression opportunities available to them?

5. Strong networks and more role models

Following the rise of notable female world leaders such as Theresa May and Angela Merkel, a third of women now say they feel more confident to speak their mind at work, according to a new study released by Crunch. If these high-profile, yet far removed from day-to-day life, leaders can have such an impact, imagine what increasing female leaders directly within an organisation, industry or local business network will achieve? More women in leadership roles will create a strong network of women in business and actively inspire more women to progress. Even a small business can have a large impact within their business community by helping to develop a female leader and actively encouraging them to extend their networks and connections. Through our Women’s Leadership Programme, we’ve supported more than 70 aspiring female leaders in our region and developed a strong alumni network of both male and female business leaders committed to creating inclusive work environments. If you would be interested in finding out more about the programme contact Lucy Plumb on