Source |Linkedin.com .com | BY:Matt Krentz,
In my last post, I discussed the recent BCG article “Dispelling the Myths of the Gender ‘Ambition Gap’” and what can prevent women from reaching their career goals. I pointed out that the research—and my own experience as global chair of the people team—tells me that women have equal amounts of ambition as men, but in order to reach senior-level roles they have to juggle a number of trade-offs. In other words, women may start out with a plan to reach a leadership position, but a variety of everyday trade-offs and sacrifices can make that dream feel less achievable over time—in part because of the lack of support they receive.
Company leaders must do a better job of providing that support—and creating a context that nourishes the ambitions of everyone.
First, we have to be imaginative about the different routes people can take to get to leadership positions—and about letting people carve those positions out in different ways once they get there. The key word here, of course, is flexibility—allowing for it in the day to day and formalizing it in companywide programs. And as more people take advantage of a company’s flexibility—something we’ve made big strides in here at BCG—women will see it happening around them, they’ll find leadership role models taking a variety of paths, and they’ll be able to hold on to the dreams they started off with.
Not Just Women’s Policies—Family Policies
In the effort to support women in their journey to senior leadership, we have to create family policies that benefit everyone, not just women. Equally important, we have to encourage men to take advantage of them. It’s happening, but not enough—especially as you move up the hierarchy within organizations. We have to encourage men to take family leave when they have a new baby, for example, so it becomes clear that no one thinks you’re less committed to your job—less ambitious—if you do so. We have to make this the norm.
And as we make flexibility the norm—and see men and women choosing alternative paths and part-time options—we have to celebrate that shift. We have to find ways to show and share their stories internally and externally, so that others can see the quality of life and career benefits these opportunities provide.
Old Boys’ Clubs Are Getting Old
Another area where company leaders can support women is to work toward creating a more inclusive environment, especially near the top of the ladder. The informal context of the workplace for executives and leaders at most companies has yet to shed the has-been habits of an old boys’ club. Changing that context is not easy, but it can be done—and the process is helped as more and more women reach the higher ranks. At BCG, for example, our Executive Committee is now one-third female, and I believe the dynamics and behavioral norms have changed.