How Women can Navigate to Become Global Leaders

Viki Holton

Senior Research Fellow at Ashridge. Her interests include surveying current trends in management and management development, best practice in career development, HR, equal opportunities and the development of women managers. She co-authored with Fiona Dent Women in Business: Navigating Career Success published in 2012.

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Fiona Dent

Fiona Dent has worked at Ashridge with a range of organisations and clients on a national and international basis. She teaches and consults in a broad spectrum of leadership, personal, interpersonal and relationship skills, and is trained in a range of psychometrics. She is Professor of Practice at Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School, UK.

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Fiona Dent and Viki Holton detail how organisations can help more women to become business leaders.

It is clear to us from our own and others’ research that organisations and senior teams within them increasingly recognise the importance of the role of women in business and, indeed, see it as a key business imperative.

There is growing media interest and there has never been a better time to grasp the nettle and move to action. The role of the individual in this area is admittedly vitally important. But organisations could and should be doing much more to bring about significant change.

This article draws upon the evidence collected from our recent research at Ashridge Business School. We highlight several areas where organisations could contribute to improving the current landscape for women in business, allowing them to be leaders in the field. True, some organisations are forging ahead but these are the exception rather than the rule. There is still much more to be done to ensure true equality.

Our focus is on two main areas:

  • Key career phases
  • Organisational solutions

In our research we heard many stories of derailment and disenchantment. Many of these stories highlighted a clash between the competing demands of parenthood and organisational life. It led to frustration and often the curtailment of a woman’s career.

Some of the examples illustrated organisational stereotyping in relation to the working mother, for example:

  • Once women have children they are no longer ambitious
  • Working mothers do not want promotion
  • Working mothers are not interested in taking on operational roles or in stretch or international assignments

Providing development opportunities to help women into leadership roles is important at all phases of their career. In the early stages it is about making them aware of their own skill set and abilities and providing them with opportunities to experiment and practise in a supportive environment.

As they begin to move into higher levels it involves helping them to gain experience that will prepare them for more senior appointments.

For the full article, you can view the PDF

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