This marketing and analytics company recognised a need to address gender equality across the business. With no women on the Executive Leadership Team (ELT), the organisation lagged behind other global leadership teams. Several development initiatives had been underway for some time, including a mentoring framework and women’s network group, however women remained under-represented at senior management levels without a clear understanding of why this was the case, and what the specific barriers to progression were.
We designed an innovative Action Research programme to both engage women in research into the issue, give them an opportunity to raise their profile and provide the business with some insights as to why there were not more women in the leadership team. It was a collaborative and empowering process to begin a cultural shift in the progress of women into senior leadership roles.
A diverse group of women at all levels in the organisation met once a month, over a six-month period. They were asked to reflect on common issues around their own leadership development and to conduct wider research into how to overcome the challenges they faced.
The group worked together to research new and innovative solutions to these problems they were experiencing, putting themselves at the heart of the solutions. These women were active agents of change, taking actions, experimenting and researching solutions during the programme before presenting their final propositions in a white paper to the ELT. This was met with enthusiasm and support and gave this group of potential leaders the opportunity to raise their profile as strategic change makers with their most senior colleagues.
The programme has resulted in visible and tangible changes in the way people work at the organisation, with initiatives launched and sponsored by the Executive Leadership Team (ELT). Amongst these are the ‘nimble working’ project which has lead to the creation of more flexible working areas and practices, the ELT now sponsor several women throughout the organisation, and the Diversity and Women’s networking groups continue to grow and support ongoing culture change.
Several women from the programme also achieved promotions during the programme - including the appointment of the first women on to the Executive Leadership Team.
The project has produced a close-knit cohort of women. These inspired female leaders are excited about contributing to the on-going culture change and are ideally placed to act as role models for future female talent in a variety of settings. They have taken on new responsibilities as mentors, sponsors, managers, recruiters, colleagues and training deliverers as a result of their participation in the programme.
The key to the success of this programme is that the solutions were owned and continue to be driven by those in the organisation to whom it matter the most.