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Women's Impact on Strategic Planning: Driving Innovation and Growth

Women's Impact on Strategic Planning: Driving Innovation and Growth Mar 04, 2024

Over the past decade, the presence of women in senior and leadership positions has been on a steady rise. 42.7 percent of women shared senior and leadership roles in 2022, signaling significant progress toward gender parity. As former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon famously remarked, "Investing in women is not just the right thing to do; it's the smart thing to do."

Despite the undeniable benefits of having women in leadership roles across all industries, many organizations still grapple with a notable gender gap in their leadership positions, particularly in areas like strategic planning.

Why Woman Still Face Gender-Gap in Strategic Leadership?

The dominating barrier to women in strategic planning is the existence of gender bias that happens unconsciously and casually. Unconscious gender bias consists of unintentionally harmful comments, assumptions, and actions related to a person's gender, directly impacting women and hindering business performance.

The concept that that men even with fewer qualifications, are perceived as better suited for leadership roles than women, subjecting women to a double-bind bias in the workplace. Studies indicate that women are often perceived as less effective scientific leaders and may be stereotyped as lacking the innate talent necessary in certain fields. Unconscious gender bias undermines women's psychological safety in the workplace. It also necessitating constant self-awareness for women in leadership positions, particularly in companies lacking inclusive frameworks to address bias.

Not only that, but women are also often subjected to criticism when exhibiting assertive behavior and are labeled as aggressive or bossy, while men displaying the same traits are praised as effective leaders. This stereotypical labeling hampers the growth of an organization. This barrier can discourage many women from pursuing career advancement opportunities, impacting their desire to climb the corporate ladder. In addition to this, women also lack role models or mentors who can support their roles in strategic planning.

Women of color face even greater challenges due to a wider gap in resources, allyship, and sponsorship, further impeding their path to leadership roles.

How to Facilitate Women in Leadership and Promote Growth?

We're still facing big challenges in achieving gender equality. Organizations can effortlessly implement small changes that will widely facilitate women in leadership roles. Here’s how—

  • Implement Continuous Unconscious Bias Training:
    Recognize that biases are deeply ingrained in your organization. You need to understand that these unconscious biases cannot be addressed through annual training exercises alone. Commit to ongoing, leveled unconscious bias training throughout the year to foster a more inclusive environment.
  • Review Hiring Policies:
    It is important to conduct a thorough evaluation of hiring policies to address unconscious biases. Integrate unconscious bias training into active processes and policies to support the development of more intersectional diversity, equity, and inclusion frameworks. Consider using software solutions that minimize recruitment bias, such as anonymizing applicant information.
  • Establish Clear Promotion Criteria and Pathways:
    Providing transparent guidelines for career advancement and implementing succession planning processes can eliminate bias and ensure equal opportunities for women to progress. Clear promotion criteria and pathways enable women to understand what is required for advancement and empower them to pursue opportunities for career growth.
  • Promote Women's Visibility:
    You must foster opportunities for women in strategic planning to lead special projects and initiatives, thereby increasing their visibility in the workplace. These opportunities showcase their capabilities and facilitate the development of allies who can support their advancement.
  • Conduct Pay Equity Audits:
    You must regularly review compensation practices to identify and rectify gender pay disparities and ensure that women are fairly compensated for their work. By conducting thorough pay equity audits, organizations can ensure that their compensation practices align with principles of fairness and equality.
  • Support Working Mothers:
    It is crucial for employers to empathize with their employees. To promote your female employees, acknowledge the challenges faced by working mothers, including managing dual responsibilities of work and caregiving. Implement strategies to support working mothers, such as offering flexible work schedules, addressing gender pay gaps, promoting male parental leave, and providing mental health support for all employees.

Importance of Women Leaders

According to the World Economic Forum, companies that boosted their share of female partner hires by 10 percent experienced an average annual increase of 1.5 percent in overall fund returns and witnessed 9.7 percent more profitable exits.

Women have played a significant role in the evolution of strategic planning alongside various economic, social, and technical advancements. Their increased representation in leadership roles has led to fresh insights and innovative approaches to developing effective strategic plans.

While technical skills are essential for strategic planning, soft skills also come as a valuable professional trait. Skills like good communication, empathy, and self-awareness are highly prized. Interestingly, for women in business, soft skills, and emotional intelligence come as a competitive advantage, as they often outperform men in major emotional intelligence characteristics, including self-awareness, empathy, conflict management, flexibility, and teamwork, crucial for effective leadership and planning.

Bringing unique perspectives, diverse experiences, and valuable skills to strategic planning teams, women contribute to improved financial performance in companies, as highlighted in the McKinsey 2023 report. Consequently, integrating women into strategic planning positions is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic necessity.

Final Words

Despite facing potential obstacles related to gender, culture, structure, or society, women leaders have highlighted remarkable success. Leveraging their unique insights, passion, and perseverance, they have introduced new ideas, disrupted business models, challenged industry norms, and mentored the next generation of innovators. However, there is still room for progress in providing women with equal opportunities for advancement in strategic planning roles.

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