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Women with strong leadership potential need mentoring and coaching to get to the top

Joe Adams , 23 Feb 2011

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At the beginning of the year, Fortune magazine reported that only a dozen Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs, despite the fact that there is plenty of evidence to show that placing a woman in charge can represent a shrewd move for investors.

 

It seems that not only are women proving themselves to be adept at steering the finances of the company, a recent Management Today poll showed that trust in female CEOs remains higher than trust in male CEOs. Female bosses don’t just score highly when it comes to employees having confidence in their ability to do their job, they are also heralded as being more principled and honest and demonstrate a better ability to empathise with their staff, showing a greater understanding of what their employees have to contend with in their day-to-day lives.

However, in the UK the proportion of women on FTSE 100 boards has plateaued at 12.5%, prompting what the ft.com quotes as "demands for a wind of change" to prevent the UK from falling behind other countries in which the female share of top jobs is rising. The findings of the annual Female FTSE Board Report by Cranfield University School of Management could point to a negative state of affairs for women in business, but instead the author of the report remains optimistic that pressure from government and the CBI employers group will initiate change. According to the report, Lord Davies, the former chairman of Standard Chartered, was said to be considering steps such as encouraging headhunters to include more women on shortlists and requiring chairmen to explain why boards lack female representation, as the Government seeks to boost the number of women without resorting to formal quotas.

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The Institute of Directors, however, takes a different view and expresses opposition to the concept of even voluntary quotas or targets, arguing that it is better to encourage more female executives through mentoring and networking.

Boosting the number of female CEOs via the mentoring and coaching process is likely to reap high rewards, given the fact that in his experience, women tend to be more responsive to coaching techniques than their male counterparts. This is in part because of their superior listening skills but is also due to an innate genuine greater interest in self-actualisation. Women are definitely more interested in accepting the need for self-improvement/self actualisation and as such are usually more than happy to put themselves forward to capitalise on the proven benefits of a programme of coaching/mentoring.

Given the growing number of capable women in the business place, more should be done to push those with strong leadership potential to the very top. In addition to the extensive strengths already cited above, women are diligent, hard-working with a great attention to detail and a keen respect for deadlines. Their management style is more collegial and therefore more popular in the current business environment. Given their natural propensity to welcome rather than shun a programme designed to enhance their leadership credentials, investing in the female leaders of the future makes sense both from a business and financial perspective.

And given the news of 4 December 2010, when the CBI finally called for all listed companies to be required to measure their progress on improving diversity in order to boost the number of women on boards, and made the business case for greater female representation – it is widely anticipated that 2011 will be the year when coaching and mentoring will come into their own to deliver more senior management opportunities for women.

 Joe Adams is CEO, Adams & Associates

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