Women’s Leadership Development Initiative

Executive Womens Network

In my mid-30s, I started taking a big interest in networking with other women in business. My friend Linda Crosby and I started the Fairfield Network of Executive Women to fill a void in the need for women who wanted more development and opportunities to do business with each other. As I recall, Linda was the only woman selling in the chemical industry at the time. She was responsible for Asia and could not use her full name when she sold because the Japanese would not do business with a woman. Boy were they surprised when they finally met her in person!

In the mid-1980s, I was serving on the Chamber of Commerce board in Norwalk, Connecticut. At a Board meeting, representatives of the Governor’s staff talked with the Board about the plans for Connecticut’s 350th Birthday Celebration. I asked, “Would there be room for celebrating the role of women in the State’s history?” That began a large initiative and my first very public role because the Governor provided $5,000 seed money and a commitment to me that the Women of Connecticut would have their own month during the 350th. The “Reader’s Digest” story is that we turned the $5k into $250k, created a month-long series of seminars, health expos, and a variety of the best-focused activities for women across the State of Connecticut that year. Named, “The Connecticut Women’s Celebration,” by the time we were finished we had touched the lives of thousands of women of all stripes. It was fantastic. The budget allowed us to provide a significant donation to the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women with a directive to bring back into print women authors from our State’s illustrious history.

Fast forward to 2015, I’ve recommitted myself to the issues women leaders face as they climb the corporate ladder. I’ve spent 30 years training and coaching women, and now in 2015 will offer a leadership academy. Creating C-Suite confidence in women leaders was the topic of my Chief Learning Officer Magazine interview in June 2015. Click here to be directed to the CLO Magazine Video Link. My thesis for this Academy is that increasing, organizations are looking for solutions to improve gender diversity in their leadership teams. Roughly two-thirds of women begin their careers in line positions, yet the figures at the top today are reversed: Roughly two-thirds in the C-suite occupy Human Resources, Marketing, or other support functions. (McKinsey Quarterly, May 2013). Advancing tomorrow’s women leaders, and the lack of progress for women in nearly every industry, raises the level of urgency to find solutions.

There are few Executive Development Programs for emerging women executives, and most organizations do not have a specific, comprehensive set of offerings to develop their women leaders. To help companies deal with these issues, we are proposing a Women’s Leadership Academy with integrated program components. There is no standard for this work, and most organizations do not include a comprehensive set of offerings to develop their women leaders. This Academy will offer a best-in-class solution based on research in the field of leadership development, talent management, and diversity. This multi-faced and multi-pronged solution is distinguished by treating women’s leadership development systemically. This is not about “fixing” our women leaders, but rather providing a comprehensive and integrated solution that encompasses rigorous assessment, in-depth coaching, visible sponsorship, peer learning, customized education, experiential learning, an alumni organization, and a constant stream of original research made available to our Women’s Conference to achieve breakthroughs in advancing women. We will be able to shape the final solution to meet clients’ needs. Click here to preview our benchmarking study and click here to listen to a webinar in which we describe this new type of initiative in more detail.

This new Academy for the Advancement of Women in Leadership attracts a cohort of 20 women per session. Multiple cohorts are available annually. The nominees must have the potential for at least two more levels of advancement in their company. Nominees participate in a uniquely designed program, with sponsorship from her organization’s senior most executives.  This Academy includes a package of services:

  1. A Pre-Academy Nomination Kit. This kit includes how to garner support, and includes the nomination process and application forms.
  2. Executive Assessment. The program offers a specialized verbal 360 conducted by executive assessors. The assessment protocol includes standardized psychometrics, such as the Hogan Assessment suite. For continuity with member company assessment tools, we integrate existing company assessments with a fresh stakeholder 360 to create a timely, integrated feedback report for participants to compare how they are viewed in their organizational culture with benchmarks relative to executive norms.
  3. Executive Coach. Four executive coaches assigned to five program participants each for the duration of the program help participants implement their goals in the program. GXD has established rigorous standards for selection of all coaches in this program.
  4. Individual Development Plan. In conjunction with the participant, the executive coach guides the development of an individualized and customized development plan (IDP). The IDP, along with a one-page summary, may be shared with the sponsoring executive and CHRO or CTO. Company-specific IDPs, if available, will be integrated..
  5. Peer Learning Groups. In order to gain maximum support from each other and leverage the learning, participants are organized in peer learning groups. These groups will meet during each in-person session and expected to convene on their own intermittently throughout the program.
  6. Alumni Association. The graduates of this program are invited to participate in the initial session of each new cohort. Their roles vary by interest and ability, and at the very least include networking with the new cohort and may, based on time commitments, include mentoring new participants. Alumni are also an on-going source of successful speakers.
  7. Customized Educational Curriculum. The program includes three in-person two-day sessions across a nine-month period. Unique to this program is experiential learning, faculty from top universities, member-organization CEO’s, and panel discussions with successful women leaders from member companies. Top speakers are selected for content to build skills in executive presence, negotiating, and other identified development needs of each cohort. Speakers are chosen from renown authors and faculty at universities and may include Sylvia Ann Hewlett (Columbia), Margaret A. Neale (Stanford), Sarah Michael (networking), Ross Shafter as Panel Moderator, as well as CEOs Denise Morrison (Campbell Soup) or Rosalyn Brewer (Sam’s Club). Peer coaching, personal time with executive coaches, and a panel of internal senior leaders (our Heroine’s Panel) round out this thoughtful, dynamic educational series. Assessment data and company-specific leadership development strategies are incorporated to achieve a relevant and holistic design to accelerate readiness for advancement.
  8. One of the sessions will meet in conjunction with an experiential Leadership Development Activity – such as at The Olympic Training Center to explore personal performance excellence, planning for performing under pressure, and focus for excellence.
  9. Executive Sponsorship. In order to provide support to C-Suite executives, our Academy team will prepare them for their roles as sponsors and advocates of participants during and after the program. If the sponsor has not previously attended a Micro-Inequities class, we will arrange for this.Executive Sponsorship is the key!
  10. Program metrics and measurement of graduates’ success in client companies are collected and reported to the participants’ organizations. This longitudinal benchmark research will serve to provide other companies with best-in-class solutions to adopt as they evolve their talent and diversity strategies. Eventually, this may include an award for the company that has done the best work in sustaining and advancing women.
  11. Research Agenda. In conjunction with the educational initiative, this cohort supports an original research report targeted at the advancing the women’s agenda as depicted in these client organizations. This constant stream of original research provides formal output to Human Capital Practices and may be shared with the senior leadership team or Board of Directors. Leading indicators such as career opportunities, as well as lagging indicators of awards and promotions, along with trends form the core of our research.

We have formed an Executive Women’s Development Network for colleagues who are leading Diversity and Leadership functions at their companies, or are simply interested in staying on the cutting edge of this work. If you would like information about joining the EWDN, please click here. For advanced registration information or other details about this Initiative, please contact Louise Korver here.