14 ways CEOs can champion women leaders
From leaning into purposeful initiatives to uplifting gender diversity, here are 14 answers to the question, "Can you share your most helpful recommendations for how CEOs can champion women leaders?"
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- Try a Reverse Mentorship Program
- Promote Female Talent
- Ensure Paid Family Leave
- Foster a Flexible Future
- Learn and Cultivate Their Growth Path
- Implement a Mentorship Program
- Be Their Biggest Cheerleaders
- Showcase Professional Profiles of Women at Your Company
- Address Unconscious Biases
- Seek and Uplift Women-led Initiatives
- Create a Resource Group
- Set up a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion
- Establish a Diversity and Inclusion Council
- Encourage Diverse Voices
Try a Reverse Mentorship Program
CEOs can champion women leaders by introducing new policies and initiatives. For example, they should set hiring practices that encourage an even gender balance and ensure senior-level positions are filled with qualified female candidates.
To take it to the next level, CEOs could also create a “reverse mentorship” program in which junior female employees mentor senior male executives on issues of equity, such as unconscious bias or gender diversity in the workplace.
This uncommon approach gives voice to junior-level employees who have valuable insights but may not otherwise be heard. An additional benefit is that this strategy enhances collaboration across hierarchical lines, furthering team building and workforce engagement.
Tasia Duske, CEO, Museum Hack
Promote Female Talent
One way to champion women leaders is to give them positions of leadership within the company. When looking to hire for leadership positions, look internally within the company to hire for those roles. If 50% of the C-Suite staff is not female, look to promote female talent that can fill those high-level roles!
Maegan Griffin, Founder, CEO, and Nurse Practitioner, Skin Pharm
Ensure Paid Family Leave
Women leaders shouldn't have to choose between their careers and growing their families. Without adequate paid family leave, which should apply to the paternal side as well, women are given little choice but to make tough choices that their male counterparts don't have to make.
This leads to women being more likely to sacrifice their ambitions, and less likely to take on leadership roles. CEOs can empower women by providing family leave as a company benefit so that this kind of hard decision doesn't stand in their way.
Jonathan Zacharias, Founder, GR0
Foster a Flexible Future
As CEOs, it's important to champion women leaders and support their career growth. One effective strategy is to foster a flexible future within the organization.
By providing opportunities for flexible working arrangements, such as part-time or remote work, companies can enable women to balance their personal and professional lives. This can increase job satisfaction and reduce the likelihood of burnout, ultimately leading to better retention rates.
For example, a marketing company implemented a flexible work policy that allowed employees to work from home twice a week. As a result, one of their top female employees could continue working while caring for her newborn. This policy helped retain her talent and maintain productivity, allowing her to maintain a better work-life balance.
Ariel Westphal, Marketing Director, Net Pay Advance
Learn and Cultivate Their Growth Path
Get to know your female leaders as a start. What do people need to feel supported? What goals and desires do they have? How do they envision their career developing? You may do this by conducting empathy interviews or by asking them questions. Learn about them and figure out their needs.
Provide time and space for them to learn and develop once you've done that. Make their self-education and leadership development a top priority. Give them the time and space in their schedules to focus on this. The benefits to your company will be immense.
By allowing them to focus on their own growth, they can be set on a path of their own choosing and achieve amazing things. Having someone like this in your company will likely change your business for the better. By making the workspace more fair, a positive work environment is created where employees are not limited; they will continually grow.
Aiden Higgins, Senior Editor and Writer, The Broke Backpacker
Implement a Mentorship Program
As the CEO of a woman-owned and operated recruiting firm, I get a lot of requests from companies hoping to diversify their workforce, but hiring women is only the first step. If women feel consistently overlooked in the workplace, they'll never become leaders in their industry.
Companies should implement a mentorship program to ensure women meet their full potential. Assigning an established worker to new hires can help counteract systemic biases and provide examples of longevity within the business.
But don't make this an unpaid position. We should reward mentors for any extra work they're taking on. Tangible benefits will always trump praise.
Debbie Winkelbauer, CEO, Surf Search
Be Their Biggest Cheerleaders
CEOs need to be the biggest cheerleaders for women in the office. Encourage them to take on challenging projects and ask important questions for individual tasks. Everyone needs a supportive team member, and it means more than anything to the employee when it's the CEO. Cheer them on and watch them flourish.
Lindsay Malu Kido, CEO, Empower Pleasure
Showcase Professional Profiles of Women at Your Company
Prior to International Women's Week, have your HR team spend some time creating profiles for the women on your team. Send out a questionnaire to those who identify as female at your company and have them respond with whether they'd like to be showcased and what achievements, both personal and professional, they'd like to share, along with a photo. Then, during IWW, post about each woman across internal networks and on social media platforms.
Jarir Mallah, HR Specialist, Ling App
Address Unconscious Biases
I think it's important to be aware of the unconscious biases that can hold women back in the workplace. Women are often perceived as less competent than men, and they are less likely to be considered for promotions or management positions.
To get rid of these biases, CEOs need to promote gender equality and make the workplace a more welcoming place for everyone. This can include putting in place policies and programs that help women move up in their careers, such as flexible work schedules, mentoring programs, and training in how to be a leader.
Companies should also try to hire more people from different backgrounds and make sure that women are represented at all levels of the company. By taking these steps, companies can not only improve gender equality but also benefit from the diverse perspectives and experiences that women bring to the table.
Kimberley Tyler-Smith, VP, Strategy and Growth, Resume Worded
Seek and Uplift Women-Led Initiatives
This could include sponsoring or supporting female-led projects, investing in female entrepreneurs, or creating a task force to investigate gender inequality in the workplace. By doing so, CEOs can ensure that women are given the same opportunities for success as their male counterparts.
Additionally, these initiatives may lead to more fair outcomes for both men and women. For example, promoting gender diversity on boards and executive management teams can foster greater creativity and innovation in the organization and provide fresh perspectives on how to tackle challenges. These initiatives also show a commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace culture, which has proven beneficial for employee morale, productivity, and overall organizational success.
Karl Robinson, CEO, Logicata
Create a Resource Group
As a female employee, I have seen firsthand how powerful a strategy it can be when CEOs champion women leaders in their organizations. Specifically, it is beneficial to create an internal resource group to initiate conversations around diversity and inclusion initiatives tailored to the goals of the company. This was one of the most impactful decisions made by my former manager and senior leadership team when introducing these initiatives. The company has seen an increase in female representation in leadership positions and a visible presence of different demographics in all aspects of the organization's culture. Creating this resource group has had a profoundly positive impact on morale, further promoting equality and trust amongst employees.
Haya Subhan, General Manager, Sheffield First Aid Courses
Set up a Culture of Diversity and Inclusion
Creating an organizational culture that embraces diversity and inclusion means doing things such as making sure there are equal opportunities for advancement, creating a safe and supportive workplace where everyone can speak up and be heard, and providing mentorship and support to help develop female leaders. Additionally, CEOs should make sure that their hiring practices reflect an equal representation of genders and backgrounds in the workplace.
Amy Lee, Medical Advisor, Nucific
Establish a Diversity and Inclusion Council
Creating a diversity and inclusion council within the organization is one of the best things a CEO can do to support female leaders. This council can include people from various departments and levels of the firm, as well as said female leaders.
The board can collaborate to find strategies to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture and address any hurdles to female leadership advancement within the business. The council can also be a resource for female leaders, offering them support, guidance, and professional development opportunities.
By taking the initiative to establish such a council, the CEO sends a simple message to the entire organization that diversity and inclusion are top objectives.
Tiff Hafler, Marketing Manager, Fortis Medical Billing
Encourage Diverse Voices
CEOs can champion women leaders by setting an example and encouraging a culture that values diverse voices. One strategy is to provide accessible board representation or create special leadership development programs specifically for female employees.
Representation in key decision-making roles shows that gender equity is taken seriously at the highest levels of an organization, while specialized programming leads to better retention practices and career growth opportunities. Both tactics effectively create a more fair workplace where women have the tools to achieve their goals and ascend within the company's hierarchy.
Julia Kelly, Managing Partner, Rigits