Build Better Teams for Women

Build Better Teams for Women

Some of the greatest success stories in history were made possible not only by individual resolve, but by cohesive teams that supported and drove the achievements of its members. For companies that want to enable greater advancement among their female leaders, one of the best ways to start is by forming better teams for women.

Women are often the sole member of their gender among their workplace teams. This is not necessarily by design, of course, but it’s a fact found in many companies.

“For women, being an “only” in the workplace is endemic. Twenty percent of the women in our Women in the Workplace report said they were commonly the only person of their gender in the room or one of very few. The figure is far higher in some sectors such as technology and engineering. For women of color, that number rose to 45 percent. For men, it was just 7 percent,” according to authors from McKinsey & Company in a report about women and workplace isolation.

There’s a better way of doing things. Using research from national experts, we’ve put together a rundown of three suggestions companies should consider as they set out to build better leadership teams for women in their workplaces.


1. Cluster, Don’t Spread Thin

Most companies likely have several different teams responsible for leading various aspects of their operations, like project management teams, compliance teams, marketing teams, etc. In the past, it was common to try and place at least one woman on each team to spread out a minimum representation. That philosophy has been found to be rather ineffective. Instead, it would be better to form teams consisting of several women even if that means some teams may have none initially. Doing so will provide better support to a company’s current female employees while emphasizing the continued need to boost recruitment and place more than one woman on each of the remaining teams.


2. Change Company Culture to Identify Shortfalls

In McKinsey & Co.’s research, the authors mentioned a commonly-found issue about perceptions of balanced female representation. From survey findings, it was determined that many people believe if one in ten leaders is a woman, then women are well represented. One in ten is simply not enough for a good balance among leadership teams. That’s why it’s advisable to make an understanding of this issue a part of a company’s culture. Perceptions need to be changed so more people will recognize that teams need more than one female member to be truly successful.


3. Create Pathways to Onboard More Women

This suggestion is rather obvious, but the ways to go about doing are not necessarily easy for every company. To build teams that include more than a single woman, most businesses are going to have to onboard more women. One of the best ways to do is to connect with entities that could potentially bring in more female candidates, such as a local career development association or a network of female professionals. Other good ideas would be making modifications to job listings, making a stronger effort to publicly recognize the achievements of top-performing female employees, and making modifications to the promotion process.


Better Teams for Women = Better Company

Companies have everything to gain by developing better teams for women. The success of one is the success of all. Creating teams where more people feel empowered to share their ideas and form new pathways for growth is sure to produce positive returns. Having more than one woman per team is a fantastic way to support advancement and, in turn, earn great rewards for any company.



Why Being the Only Woman on a Team is a Problem:

  • Women are more likely to experience discrimination in the workplace than men. The odds are higher when women find themselves alone in a group of men.
  • Women alone on teams are far more likely to have their judgment questioned than women working in a balanced environment (49% versus 32%),
  • Far more likely to be mistaken for someone more junior (35% versus 15%),
  • And far more likely to be subjected to unprofessional and demeaning remarks (24% versus 14%).
  • Because of this treatment, they are more likely to be overlooked for a promotion.

Source: McKinsey & Co.


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