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How Can We Do Better for Women’s Leadership in 2016?

I recently read an inspiring post on the Catalyst website by two female GE managers, Cara Hume and Nancy Dunn. In the post, Hume and Dunn explained how asking the simple question “How can we do better” led their senior leadership team to make significant changes in the company’s policies, benefits, and culture this year.

The post explains how the pair had reflected with their boss, Susan Peters, senior VP of HR at GE, on their experience of trying to juggle and flex their work with the rest of their life. Peters challenged them to think about how the company could do better when it came to parental leave, family care, flexible work arrangements, and more.

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Who You Know Matters as Much as What You Know—Why Women’s Sponsorship Still Matters

Do you expect that if you work hard to prove your value and differentiate yourself as a model employee that you’ll be automatically considered for career advancement? Research has shown that over three-quarters of women (77 percent) believe that long hours, hard work, and education lead to promotion rather than relationships and key connections.

This belief is simply false—and men know it. As I reported in my recent book Make Room for Her, Catalyst’s research has shown that 83 percent of men believe that who you know matters as much or more than your job skills and level of competence when it comes to corporate advancement. Men focus more energy than most women on building and intentionally leveraging a meaningful network to help them rise in their career. Women would be wise to follow their lead, since studies have shown that women are overmentored yet undersponsored.

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Breaking Through the Gender Barrier—You Can’t Do It Alone

Last week, I had the welcome opportunity to participate in a rich dialogue with Cathy Engelbert, who was recently appointed Chief Executive Officer for Deloitte LLP. I congratulated Cathy for becoming the first women in a professional services firm to take the helm as CEO, thus serving as a role model for many future female leaders.

Our conversation, which focused on the perennial topic of how to advance women in leadership, took place at the St. Regis in New York alongside 20 other women executives who have powerful roles in the Capital Markets sector. Several of these women have seats on notable corporate boards. Throughout the discussion, I was reminded about the importance of integrated leadership to women’s career advancement. To break through the gender barrier, women and men both need to play a significant role, as do organizations.

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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.

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