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Forget personal development, women want to be leaders

01 Nov 2019
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Women have the ambition and confidence to get ahead in their careers and add value to organisations, but the problem is that few training programmes truly focus on leadership.

That’s according to New Zealand-based leadership development expert Dr Sue Watson, who works with public and private sector organisations to grow female talent pipelines.

Watson says that that women are looking for more than just personal development – they want to be leaders.

“What we are hearing is that women want to develop the capabilities that will support them to be better leaders and add value to their organisations,” she explains.

But there’s a problem. Traditionally, mentoring and training programmes focused on personal skills like assertiveness and confidence. But that’s not what women are after.

Watson says there is demand for learning based around leadership capabilities, either through formal training or mentoring and sponsorship.

“The feedback I get indicates women are willing to do their part to develop these capabilities, but they need our workplaces to get serious about the initiatives that will bring them through the talent pipeline,” she says.

“Women are confident, they are ready to step up, but they are not getting pulled through.”

Organisations should also deliver initiatives to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles, Watson adds.

Watson runs her own workshops for women, called Aspiring Female Leaders, for Diversity Works in New Zealand.

Vodafone New Zealand head of business product and solutions Tribe, Carly Graham, speaks highly of the workshops.

“Attending the Aspiring Female Leaders workshop a few years ago, changed how I viewed female leadership, and female professional development,” says Graham.

“Using facts, statistics and real stories really focused me in on the importance of business, financial and strategic acumen learning and development for female leaders, and how we can use this knowledge in the workplace.”

Dr Watson says businesses can address the gender pay gap by supporting women to develop their leadership capabilities. That will result in more women in senior leadership roles.

Organisations also need people with strong strategic and business acumen to respond to increasing disruption and change.

“Women want to be part of that by bringing diversity of thinking into the leadership of organisations to support that change.”