As International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world, take a moment to consider how you can support and empower the women in your business.
The theme for 2019’s International Women’s Day is ‘More powerful together’. It makes sense that when the women in your team are supported, empowered and achieving their goals, your business will feel the benefits.
Yet despite much progress, it’s no secret that many women continue to experience a range of obstacles when it comes to pursuing their career goals. And with women making up only 20%1 of Australia’s financial planning profession, more can be done to advance the progression of women in our own industry.
To understand the issues and opportunities at a deeper level, Business Chicks spoke to 2,752 Australian women in 2018, compiling their findings in the report, Women in Leadership2. The research explored three key insights:
1. Women face complex challenges in pursuing their career goals
The women surveyed called-out the ongoing existence of the glass ceiling and being excluded from promotion due to their gender. Dealing with unconscious (or conscious) bias and gender stereotypes remains an issue.
Because women often have parental and other carer responsibilities, they may carry additional burdens. Returning to work after parental leave and facing limited access to childcare can be very challenging.
What’s more, many women have internalised feelings of self-doubt which can make it hard to challenge the status quo. Many felt unsupported by other women in business, lacked female role models and had limited access to networks of other women.
2. Women are keen to develop their leadership skills
With organisations seeking to ‘do more with less’, employees at all levels are required to show leadership, even if they don’t have people reporting to them.
As women seek to contribute more, the skills they most want to develop are thinking ahead and strategy development, influencing others, translating strategy into action and leveraging their networks.
Importantly, the report points out, these are also the critical leadership skills that are anticipated to be needed in the workplaces of the future.
3. Development can take many forms
The ways the women said they want to develop these leadership skills varied from attending speaking events, learning from peers and mentors, attending programs, using an executive coach and learning online.
Taking action in your practice
As a service business, each of your team members are an investment due to the trust you place in them as representatives of your firm.
One of the best ways to strengthen your employer-employee relationship, according to Gallup, the workplace analytics adviser, is to provide opportunities for your employees to learn and grow. In fact, development opportunities are what your employees want most from you as their employer3.
International Women’s Day is a good time to have a conversation with your female staff about their challenges and career goals, and together, set up a development plan. It is an opportunity to help staff to feel valued and supported and to remove barriers that may be impacting their well-being or performance.
With platforms such as LinkedIn making it easier for talented staff to be head-hunted and others like Glassdoor helping them to compare between workplaces, employers need to be on their game. Increasingly, cementing relationships with staff is an ongoing requirement.
Taking the time this International Women’s Day to nurture your female staff has benefits for your team, clients and business. Small businesses employ 44%4 of the Australian workforce – more than any other sector. So whilst the media focuses on the gender mix of Australia’s top 100 company boards, it’s businesses like yours that have the greater impact on the working lives of ordinary Australians.
10 ways to nurture your female leaders
- Make time for them.
- Encourage them to dream big goals for their career.
- Support participation in networking opportunities, such as industry networking through the FPA’s Women in Wealth, CPA Australia, Financial Executive Women and Women in Super as well as informal networking through local groups such as at Meetups.
- Provide training and development: which can vary from on-the-job to conferences and online learning. Low cost options include Udemy and Skillshare.
- Establish mentor relationships: share your network and make introductions.
- Give feedback and encouragement to help them grow.
- Provide interesting work and learning experiences.
- Pay attention to the moments that matter: call out sexist behaviour if you see it.
- Appreciate the multiple roles held by women in their lives: show interest, offer flexibility and support the choices they make.
- Ask the question – is this workplace female-friendly? Do your female team members feel there is equal treatment and do they experience any ‘Mad Men’ behaviours?
1. More Women Needed in Financial Planning, Money Management, 24 September 2018
2. Women in Leadership, Business Chicks, 2018
3. Gallup – Re-engineering Performance Management 2018
4. Small Business Counts 2016, Small Business in the Australian Economy, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman