A couple of months ago we came across an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) titled “How Most Leadership Training Programs Fail Women.” The article begins, “The list of reasons more women don’t hold top jobs in corporate America is long and complex: Long-ingrained gender stereotypes. Work cultures that value face time over results. A lack of women in the boardroom. A leaky pipeline that does little to retain women in the jobs necessary to get the top roles.” So far so good.
Then this WSJ article referenced another piece in the November-December Issue of Harvard Business Review titled, “Turning Potential into Success: The Missing Link in Leadership Development” to support the argument that leadership development programs that place too much emphasis on existing skills and competencies without taking potential into consideration overlook women. At first glance, the HBR article didn’t seem to be arguing that point at all — the word “women” appears in the article only twice — and the suggestion that women lack existing skills and competencies seemed on its face offensive.
But a closer read did suggest some deeper, and relevant, insight. Saying that certain employees – whether women, minorities, younger employees, etc. — lack certain skills and competencies isn’t the same as saying they aren’t talented. The point is that many groups outside of the traditional norm of executive leadership, or even middle management, haven’t always been given the same opportunities. It’s easier to tap someone who has experience managing a large department, or a big budget, to be the next senior executive than it is to identify the potential for greatness — and then take the time to to develop that talent.
If women, or other underrepresented employees, aren’t given the opportunity to gain experiences that position them to be tapped to move onward and upward, their careers may stall. Are your training programs failing women, and other, segments of your population? Be inclusive!
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