Due to a whole host of gender and societal factors, we know that women are more likely to downplay their abilities than men.
There’s a chance you might recognise this from every day life. Comparing levels of modesty between the people you know in both work and personal contexts, you might notice that men navigate the world with an air of confidence seen less in women.
And you wouldn't be wrong to notice so, because this is backed up by considerable research.
In a series of studies and experiments on the gender gap in self-promotion, women consistently ‘rate their performance less favorably than equally performing men’.
This fact is naturally limiting women in their careers, from behaviour at work, to promotions, to job interviews. A well quoted Hewlett Packard report found that women only apply for a job when they have 100% of the skills and qualifications required, compared with men who apply when they only have 60%.
This statistic doesn’t just come down to confidence differences. Decades of prescribed gender norms and societal expectations around the behaviour of women have resulted in women naturally ‘playing by the rules’ more than men.
Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, found when studying this report, that ‘while 15% of women said the main reason they didn’t apply was because “I was following the guidelines,” only 8% of men said so’.
And it's not only women perceiving their own abilities unfavourably, we're all doing it to successful women subconsciously. When Columbia Business School ran a study into gender bias, they gave students the business case study of Silicon Valley VC Heidi Roizen – apart from on half of the class' paper, she was called Harold.
While the students rated both Heidi and Harold as equally competent, they all preferred Harold, naming Heidi as selfish and less likeable.
This study painfully demonstrates the subconscious bias and negative preconceptions in society when it comes to successful women in leadership.
Behavioural gender differences, gender bias, and many other historical, biological, and societal factors help to explain why less women ascend to leadership and decision making roles in organisations, but crucially, help us understand how we can change it.
Why We Need More Women In Leadership
Women make up 50% of the population, it therefore makes sense that their opinions are factored equally when it comes to business.
Unfortunately, you can’t always rely on what makes sense being true.
Whilst in 2019 the global share of women holding senior management roles is the largest in history, it’s still only 29%.
As well as good old common sense, a breadth of research highlights the benefits of gender diversity for businesses. Diverse groups come with varied points of view and insight, resulting in smarter, well-rounded, innovative and more impactful decision making.
Gender diversity has also proven to increase the bottom line for businesses. A study last year by Boston Consulting Group found that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue.
Having a large number of women in leadership roles also inspires and encourages other women within the company to aspire for senior managerial positions. It creates a talent pipeline where women can clearly see progression opportunities for them which are equal to their male colleagues.
It’s when businesses lack this diversity at the top that more women leave – or their aspiration drops – because they don’t see a place for themselves in leadership positions. Not only is this detrimental to employee retention, but also to recruitment.
So we understand why we need more women in leadership (I hope) – now how can mentoring help us get there?
Using Mentoring To Empower Women
Mentoring is one of the most effective ways to enable personal development in organisations, resulting in increased confidence, job satisfaction, and aspiration.
(If you’re unfamiliar with all the benefits mentoring can have, check out this list I wrote).
Since we're aware from research that women are falling behind in job applications and struggling with self-promotion, and career mentoring helps bolster, inspire, and guide, it's an obvious and ideal solution. Mentoring can help pave the way for more women to aspire to leadership roles within their companies.
The principle behind mentoring to help leadership diversity is promoting upward mobility for women. By pairing aspiring women in a company with women already in senior management roles, they are inspired, guided, and supported at crucial stages of their career. This works to build a stronger career pipeline for women in business. A pipeline that is traditionally rather leaky when it comes to letting women through.
Crucially, if companies can instil this culture of female mentorship now, they're not only supporting their current women, but also those that will enter their organisation in the future. This is because 89% of those who have been mentored will also go on to mentor others. (Source)
Mentoring therefore creates a whole culture of learning, development and aspiration within an organisation, making it an effective long-term solution to women in leadership imbalance.
How Guider Can Help
At Guider, we tailor internal mentoring programs to meet company diversity initiatives, such as our current work with LVMH as they aim to reach 50/50 gender balance in leadership roles by 2020. Read more here.
Our platform makes setting up a mentoring program easier than ever, using AI to match high potential women with senior mentors in your organisation. This takes the manual matching process (and unavoidable bias) out of human hands to achieve the most impactful results.
Get in touch to find out more or ask us any questions 💡