Tackle workplace gender inequality with executive coaching
Zara Sloane is a Diversity and Performance Enablement Specialist and certified executive coach. She has worked globally with a range of businesses and senior leaders, as well as emerging and young leaders. She is passionate about the extraordinary benefits that diversity and inclusion brings to business and society.
Even with businesses adopting proactive diversity action plans to tackle gender inequality head-on, there are still serious gender inequalities within many companies. Women may earn less than men, receive fewer opportunities and promotions, face unconscious gender bias, and subsequently, far fewer women occupy leadership positions than demographics would imply, leading to entrenched gender inequality.
Tackling this problem is crucial if you want your business to be sustainably inclusive. An effective, but often overlooked, means of doing so can be through executive coaching, but how is this method effective in helping to combat gender inequality?
Executive coaching provides targeted support and investment for female professionals
In many businesses, women can find it difficult to progress, especially if there are few female leaders within the company or the organisational culture, processes, or structure are geared against women.
Take salary negotiations. A common assumption is that women are less likely to negotiate their salaries. Yet, 2018 research published in Industrial Relations showed that women asked for promotions and raises just as often as men, but men were nevertheless more likely to be successful. Women who asked received 15% of the time, while men did so 20% of the time. This 5% difference truly adds up – over a lifetime and across society; according to the ONS’ 2019 figures, among full-time UK employees, the gender pay gap is 8.9%, rising to 17.3% among all employees.
Executive coaching can help women navigate and overcome challenges such as these, providing inspiration, tactics, and strategies they can put into action. It can help improve their confidence when approaching and engaging in negotiations, boosting their rates of success.
It supports male leaders to act on gender inequality
2018 research from PayScale found that men are likely to be promoted by men, and women are more likely to be promoted by women. This inclination of managers to promote those who are like themselves is a clear example of an affinity bias, but this perpetuates the gender pay gap since men are more likely to be leaders. Women still only occupy 28.6% of board positions in the FTSE 100 companies as presented in The Hampton-Alexander Review 2019.
Change can work from the top down alongside women-led efforts from the bottom up. Through executive coaching male leaders can gain a deeper understanding of diversity and inclusive leadership, build awareness of their own bias and those of their organisation as well as be supported in developing strategies on how to avoid potential pitfalls and incentivise action. Executive coaching helps male leaders build the tools and confidence to champion and become effective sponsors for women in their business.
Executive coaching through the lens of intersectionality
Ultimately coaching provides a safe space for all leaders to discuss their diversity and inclusion challenges. Through support and the development of awareness, there is a greater benefit here that will create positive outcomes not only for women but also for other groups affected by disadvantage. Leaders can develop the competence to deliver on expectations across an even broader set of diversity dimensions.
Executive coaching can support all women across a business succeed
Individual coaching is a great way to formulate a plan to advance one’s personal career development. Group coaching can also help women assist each other in developing influencing skills and the ability to constructively challenge, and can also provide powerful peer support.
Larger, company-wide mentoring programs can also be used to help women at all leadership levels develop their strengths, navigate workplace dynamics, and ultimately succeed when it comes to appraisals, pay negotiations, and promotions.
With such extensive coaching, and the potential for those that have been coached to go on to mentor other women, lasting change can occur at scale. This makes mass mentoring programmes an excellent choice for large organisations suffering from gender inequality.
Benefit from executive coaching methods
If you don’t have access to executive coaching right now, there are still plenty of steps you can take to negotiate your workplace culture and drive forward your personal development and career.
1. Understand the current barriers to your career progression
2. Understand the unwritten ‘code’ by which people progress within your organisation – i.e. access to career-defining opportunities
3. Find out how to identify and access these opportunities – such as harnessing the power of sponsors, coaches, and mentors
4. Develop your influencing skills; learn how to constructively challenge colleagues who are not supporting your progression
5. Gain feedback and insights from others to continue progress and develop.