By: Dania Nourallah, Senior Manager, Human Capital, Consulting, Deloitte Middle East

The past few years have witnessed tremendous progress and a significant increase in women attaining leadership positions in the workplace. The amount of women assuming leadership roles is spiraling, as we are seeing more women on boards, and the overall perception of women in the workforce is transforming positively. However, in probing into the status of women in leadership, we can still pinpoint some areas for improvement. While career progression to leadership roles is a challenge for both men and women, it does not come as a shock that many capable women still feel discouraged embarking on the journey up the corporate ladder.

As Steph Webster and Ruki Kurukulasuriya said, “The very fact that there are less women in leadership sustains the perception that attaining leadership is hard for women.” So what can organizations do to promote equality, erase the stereotype towards women in leadership, and enable the change in culture?

As a first step, develop mentorship programs as an effective and efficient solution to tackling the mindset and culture in organizations, and in later stages, gender needs to be eliminated from the equation, and focus on mentorship programs that identify mentors and mentees purely based on capabilities, qualifications, and best-fit. Mentoring can help individuals identify and promote their personal brand, their contribution to the organisation and how they would like to be perceived. It also helps in building networks, confidence and provides clear direction, which is a key element and a requirement for success.

Organizations should also introduce unconscious bias training to all management positions and ensure the inclusion of every qualified person in the room. Career progression should not be based on gender, and no one should be favored based on false perceptions, whether it’s that men are ‘more flexible’, or that women are ‘more collaborative’. For this to truly work, leaders need to lead the change by making the right decisions, for the right reasons, as well as identifying issues, and not ignoring bias when they witness it.

Finally, provide a safe environment, which is open and transparent, to talk about inequality, spread awareness across unconscious bias, and most importantly be ready to act! Whether through the business model, policies, or even becoming champions for change. Because by doing so, you are creating a sustainable work environment where everyone knows that hard work yields results, and everyone can make an impact that truly matters.

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