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Women in Leadership Program

Carolyne French

By Carolyne French, Head of Program Learning,
1 January 2024

Custom-built Women in Leadership Programs for your Organisation

The objective of this program is to empower women in leadership positions to cultivate their executive presence. Traditionally, women are nurtured into roles as ‘carers and putting others first’ and this program is about ‘unlearning’ some of these default behaviours while, at the same time, learning how to assert themselves and exert influence.

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Program Purpose

Empowering women to take on and thrive in leadership positions is crucial when organisations make a commitment to gender equality and diversity and inclusion. Our Women in Leadership Program is designed to help Australian women in all industries and at all stages of their careers develop leadership capabilities, while dismantling the gender barriers that exclude them from positions of authority. Whether your women leaders are just starting out or have been in leadership positions for some time, our program helps grow and develop the skills your female leaders need to achieve leadership success.

Working with organisations across Australia, we know that women face unique challenges in leadership positions. Here’s a few of them:

  1. Gender bias and discrimination: Gender bias and discrimination continue to be major challenges for women in leadership positions. Women might face bias in hiring and promotion decisions, and might be perceived as less assertive or capable of decision making, for example.
  2. Lack of representation: Women continue to be underrepresented in many industries – especially in senior leadership positions. This lack of representation can make it difficult for women to find mentors and role models, and can limit their career advancement opportunities and networking opportunities.
  3. Work-life balance: Balancing work and personal responsibilities is challenging for most people, but women are more likely to be passed over for senior leadership roles if they are also a caregiver. This makes it hard to establish gender balance in senior leadership teams.
  4. The “likeability penalty”: Women who behave in assertive or confident ways are often penalised for violating gender stereotypes, and may be seen as less likeable and less competent as a result. Instead of seeing assertiveness as an empowering trait, women may be branded ‘bossy’ or ‘arrogant’ instead.
  5. “Imposter syndrome”: Some women might experience imposter syndrome, or the feeling that they are not qualified and have sufficient leadership capability or competencies to be in their leadership roles. This can lead to self-doubt, ‘second-guessing’ and affect their confidence.
  6. Lack of support: Female leaders might experience a lack of support from their colleagues or senior management, who may not take their concerns or challenges seriously. This can leave women feeling isolated and unsupported, and can make it difficult for them to access opportunities.
  7. Intersectionality: Women face gender barriers but women of colour and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women face significantly more challenges in accessing opportunities in the workplace. Women over the age of 55, women with disabilities, and LGBTIQA+ women, also face unique challenges when it comes to workplace equity and inclusion as well.

Overall, these challenges can make it difficult for women to both access and truly succeed in leadership positions. However, with the right support such as a tailored Women in Leadership Program, coaching sessions, and advocacy, women can overcome these barriers and thrive as leaders in their workplaces.

Program Benefits

With the help of the Women in Leadership Program, skills that women leaders can put in place to enhance their leadership capability include:

  1. Assertiveness: Effective leaders can assert their point of view while still seeking the ‘win-win’ with stakeholders and colleagues. Women leaders can improve their assertiveness by empowering themselves to speak up, by asking intelligent questions, and by seeking out networking opportunities to grow their confidence.
  2. Self-awareness: Self-awareness involves the ability to recognise and manage one’s own emotions, to improve relationships with others. Women leaders can improve their self-awareness by engaging in self-reflection, by seeking feedback from others, by accessing mentoring or coaching sessions, and by developing empathy for those around them.
  3. Conflict resolution: Conflict can arise when there are different personalities and perspectives in the workplace, but effective leaders use initiatives to manage conflicts in a constructive way. Female leaders can improve this skill by identifying the root causes of conflicts, staying calm and objective in heated situations, and working collaboratively to find solutions.
  4. Negotiation: Negotiation is a critical skill for leaders, as they often need to advocate for themselves and their teams to achieve outcomes. Women leaders can develop their negotiation skills by empowering themselves to express their needs and priorities, developing a range of negotiation strategies, and seeking out opportunities to practice these skills.
  5. Time management: Effective leaders are able to manage their time and energy to achieve their goals. Female leaders can improve their time management skills by setting clear priorities, by minimising distractions, and learning to say “no” to requests that pull them away from high value initiatives.
  6. Delegation: Effective leaders are able to delegate tasks and responsibilities to others in order to focus on their own priorities and goals. Female leaders can develop a delegation mindset by identifying high value versus low value tasks (and delegating low value tasks), communicating clear expectations and deadlines, and providing feedback.
  7. Strategic thinking: Effective leaders can think strategically; anticipating challenges and opportunities and developing plans to address them. Women leaders can improve their strategic thinking skills by being learners as well as leaders, staying informed about industry trends and developments, and practising creative problem-solving.
  8. Decision making: Effective leaders make thoughtful, well-considered decisions that they can communicate with confidence. Female leaders can build this this leadership capability by gathering different perspectives, researching and establishing best practice, and by weighing up both the positive and negative impacts of a decision.

By developing competencies in these practical skills, female leaders can increase their confidence and capability and overcome the unique challenges often faced in leadership positions.

Program FAQs

What is a Women in Leadership Program?

Our Women in Leadership Program is a professional development course specifically designed to support women in senior leadership positions. It aims to provide participants with the skills, tools, resources and confidence necessary to succeed in leadership roles. Our experienced facilitators have worked with many female leaders across Australia and draw from their own and the shared experiences of these women to offer meaningful advice, practical strategies, and stories and case studies to learn from.

Why should my organisation offer a Women in Leadership Program?

Being part of a women in leadership course can help women to develop their leadership skills and build partnerships across a supportive community of peers. It can also help participants to break down gender stereotypes and traditional roles that might otherwise hold them back from leadership opportunities and fully embracing senior management positions. The networking opportunities are crucial to helping women help each other.

Who can attend a Women in Leadership Program?

This Women in Leadership Program is designed for women entering into or who are part of a senior management team. The skills we focus on build competencies in tackling strategic and organisational matters, as well as building ‘executive presence’. However, this program can be easily customised for emerging leaders, frontline leaders, or women in middle management leadership positions as well.

Are Women in Leadership Programs only available in person?

Our Women in Leadership Program can be delivered in an in-person, virtual or hybrid format; depending on the organisation’s set-up. It is typically made up of a series of workshops with activities to support on the job application. Often these are complemented with coaching sessions with a Thinka coach. Coaching plays an important role in challenging old behaviours and building fresh confidence and leadership capability in each of the participants. Organisations might also opt for a blended program that makes use of eLearning modules and other forms of media.

Program Case Study

‘Women on the Move’ Leadership Program with Carsales

 

1. What was the objective?

In 2021, Carsales requested a program of work that focused on their female leaders in the technology industry. The goal was to develop their soft skills, increase their confidence, and build stronger, supportive partnerships across the business.

After a pilot 90min workshop and a small group coaching session was delivered in late 2021, the need for a longer program emerged. The engagement and positive feedback from participants about the pilot lead to the full ‘women on the move’ (WOTM) program.

This women in leadership program was then launched to the wider business at the beginning of 2022, with women leaders being selected from multiple departments by key stakeholders. This select enrolment helped to ensure commitment from the cohort to the development program and helped to forge stronger connections.

2. How did we do it?

The WOTM program consisted of four, big-group, virtual workshops which gathered women leaders together who were geographically dispersed across Australia. These were then followed up by small group coaching sessions (60mins) with only 10 participants per group. The key outcomes for the four workshops were to help women leaders:

  • Understand the value in knowing their purpose
  • Combine organisational and personal values with purpose
  • Apply a range of strategies to refine, change or strengthen their leadership brand and career
  • Authentically communicate, seeking the win-win

3. How was it integrated and what were the results?

This program was a stand-alone learning program and to be part of it, women leaders needed to commit to their leadership development, all workshops and coaching sessions. Carsales has provided strong anecdotal feedback that each female leader’s confidence has increased and that they have developed partnerships with each other that are supportive and valuable. Workshop data also showed a high level of engagement from participants with the content that was focussed on breaking down bias and helping women leaders advocate for gender equality.

Hear directly from the ‘Women on the Move’ participants in this video

Example program

Month 1

Traditional roles and gender stereotypes

Looking at the traditional roles of women and how this conditioning has resulted in exclusion from leadership opportunities. Unlearning any ‘conditioned’ responses.

  • Induction
  • Program roadmap
  • Virtual workshop
  • Application tools

Month 2

Why you don’t have to ‘lead like a man’

Discussing the idea of ‘female leadership’ – what are some of the strengths we can embrace as leaders?

  • Clifton-Strengths Diagnostic Tool
  • Virtual workshop
  • Application tools
  • 1:1 coaching

Month 3

Your leadership brand

Developing a ‘leadership brand’ that is authentic and draws on the strengths identified in Month 2.

  • Virtual workshop
  • Guest speaker (authentic female leader)
  • Application tools

Month 4

Getting heard: assertiveness and influencing

Learning how to have influence – to be heard and get your ideas in front of the right people.

  • Virtual workshop
  • Application tools
  • Reflection task (presentation preparation)

Month 5

Building a sustainable, supportive community

Learning how to empower each other as female leaders in an ongoing community of practice, and giving new female leaders in the future a place to access support.

  • Virtual workshop (short presentations from each leader)
  • Community-building application tools
  • Community of Practice

PROGRAM Outline

Delivery Options

In Person Program

Virtual Program

Hybrid Program

Key Outcomes

1. Women who know how to balance the ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ aspects of leadership.

2. Women who know their strengths and how to leverage them.

3. Women who know how to assert themselves and their point of view.

4. Women who can use their influencing style effectively.

5. Women who are confident and comfortable in a range of leadership situations.

Possible Inclusions

1. Program roadmap

2. Induction

3. Welcome box

4. Workshops

5. Activities (e.g. Hackathon)

6. Guest speakers

7. Tools for application

8. Assets (e.g. eLearning, video)

9. Coaching

10. Participant management

Target Audience

Female leaders

Our in-person delivery option maximises opportunities for robust conversation, experiential activities and intensive group work. This is no ‘death by PowerPoint’ experience – our facilitators are skilled in presenting and leading immersive experiences that get the most out of people. Supported by multimedia, attractive takeaway pages and practical strategies for using back on the job – this in-person approach is valuable for building strong bonds and bringing people together to collaborate.
Q
Our virtual delivery option breathes fresh life into the online experience with its almost ‘radio show’ feel. Our expert facilitators use a combination of multimedia, questioning techniques and break out activities to target micro-skills – with a focus on application. Supported by an online platform hosting custom-built materials, participants can be assured of lively, dynamic sessions that have a distinct bias to action. Going virtual keeps program sessions succinct, sharp and focused on targeting particular skills in a dynamic way.
Q
A hybrid model takes the best of in-person and virtual delivery options and blends them together, so there’s a healthy mix of face to face collaboration and targeted skill building. Depending on the program themes, we work with you to decide what is better suited to getting together in a training space versus what would sit comfortably in an online setting. This flexible combination allows you and your team to get the best of both worlds.
Q
This program would suit emerging and new executive female leaders and is helping to address the under-representation of women in leadership positions, especially executive leadership positions. Female leaders who participate in this program should be willing to challenge themselves and deliberately seek out opportunities to stretch when applying new skills.
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