The Missing Link: Approach to Women’s Leadership Must Be Multifaceted

My last post focused on common problems that companies face in realizing a meaningful return on their investment in attracting, retaining, and advancing women leaders. While many forward-thinking organizations have well-developed programs in place to support their women leaders, the desired results are just not being seen in a large number of these Fortune 500 organizations.

Problems are easy to pinpoint, evidenced by the large number of articles in the media elaborating on them. Solutions, on the other hand, have been elusive for this particular challenge. While there are several first-level strategies that women, men, and organizations can execute to improve the situation (as detailed in my last post), none of these approaches by itself is sufficient to truly solve the problem. The solution lies in consistently following through at each of these three levels simultaneously.

It’s not enough for women to make individual changes to improve their leadership potential and unstick themselves from the Sticky Floor. It’s also not enough for men to serve as mentors and sponsors, playing a vital role in advocating for moving women up. And though the role of corporate culture is extremely important, opening doors in this arena won’t work if the other two parts of the puzzle are missing.

Integrated Solutions

SHAMBAUGH has long advocated for a four-pronged integrative approach to women’s corporate advancement. We don’t just focus on one element of the organization, but on creating and sustaining a comprehensive “ecosystem” based on measures specific to women, men, culture, business metrics, and systems in order to effect true and lasting change. This approach is also supported by McKinsey & Company, which has published their Women Matter report since 2007. For example, McKinsey considers “collective enablers” that support gender diversity for the firm. These include HR policies and key performance indicators that help ensure women are included systemically in pipelines for recruitment and promotion.

SHAMBAUGH helps companies develop and implement strategies that incorporate:

  • Women’s participation in assuming responsibility for their career and advancement through professional development programs that help them acknowledge their leadership competencies, and increase their confidence to use these strengths as needed for self-promotion.
  • Men’s commitment to actively drive women’s advancement through concrete actions such as participating in opportunities to mentor and sponsor women, (See Engaging Men) recommending women for promotions, and nominating them for existing leadership positions. We also help men recognize their gender-related blind spots through training on biases and becoming an emotionally intelligent leader.
  • CEO and top management’s commitment to creating a more inclusive and accountable culture that supports balanced leadership. To be effective, corporate culture must tap into and leverage the unique and broad spectrum of perspectives and thinking that both men and women bring to the table. Designing measurements to hold leaders accountable for their hiring and promotion practices is a key component.

No matter what your company’s ideal solution looks like, the point is that the approach to moving more women into leadership positions needs to be tackled on multiple levels in order to truly stick and make a difference. If any part of the chain is weak, it will be much harder to achieve the desired results—no matter what diversity initiatives are already in place.

To find out how organizations can eliminate outdated assumptions and move towards true cultural transformation, visit A SHAMBAUGH consultant can help your company take a deeper dive on this critical issue.

If you are interested having Rebecca Shambaugh keynote at your next leadership program or conference contact us at

Rebecca Shambaugh is author of the best-selling books It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor,” “Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton,” and Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results

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Rebecca Shambaugh

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