The statistics for women in corporate America remain dismal. Women hold only 17 percent of senior-level positions, 12 percent of board seats and 5 percent of CEO roles. Companies need to focus on developing a more diverse talent pipeline, says Elaine Miller, a managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers who focuses on advancing women in executive careers.
Do most organizations lack a framework to drive female talent upward?
Typically they have some sort of talent management program, but where they fall short is in diversity and particularly in promoting women into the leadership pipeline. They haven’t put enough attention into how to develop female talent within the organization.
I think it’s a mix of so many reasons. Sheryl Sandberg would say the easy answer is you have to lean in. I think it’s a complex issue that comes down to culture and the unwritten rules that exist but need to change.
Does the U.S. need legislative action to address this gender gap?
We are seeing increasing pressure from shareholders, so for public companies there is already pressure for more female representation on boards. I don’t know if it needs legislative action, but certainly pressure from the public is starting to mount.
Is that enough to move the dial?
We not only need to have external pressure, but also the internal sponsorship. All C-suite executives need to drive diversity in general and female leadership specifically. And I don’t think that happens naturally. This has to come with a plan. It has to be an explicit and conscious effort to make sure that women are on the agenda and in the talent pipeline.
Do female IT leaders bring a different perspective to the organization?
There is research and public data that teams perform better, their ideation is better, their collective IQ is better, and there’s diversity of thought when there are women on the team. So you can extrapolate that if the team is led by women, it’s also very powerful.
How can a CIO develop female leadership within IT?
Step one could be to design a program to attract, retain and develop women. Road maps, learning plans and development plans are all within the scope and reach of a CIO. These would typically include coaching and mentoring programs, both formal and informal, and it often includes [rotating assignments] for global experience.
The second thing is building a pipeline of high performers and tagging women earlier and making sure that the succession plan dips into the middle ranks.
The third thing CIOs can do is establish the culture and infrastructure that supports the development of women, making it safe for employees and women in particular to ask for flexibility in their schedules or their work locations.