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Despite a number of well-considered leadership initiatives, gender imbalance in organisations is changing slowly. There are also concerns that the women who do achieve higher positions may feel they need to emulate male patterns of behaviour (extreme working, long hours, aggressive styles) that prevent them being effective role models to more junior women. This is always a risk where there are only ‘token’ women rather than more balanced teams. More importantly perhaps it may dilute some of the proven business benefits of having more women on senior teams if they are behaving identically to their male counterparts. This is an issue many organisations are grappling with, as Diversity and Inclusion committees and past initiatives have not yet delivered gender balance. Innovative companies want to lead the field in gender diversity.  Our private banking client had already done a great deal but wanted to actively support and develop women to aspire to more senior positions by designing a Women’s Leadership programme. White Water worked on the design with the Women’s Network which had been very active in lobbying for change. The final year long programme took a multi layered and blended approach, including:

  • Careful selection of the cohort of 20 women
  • Advance psychometrics
  • Meetings with all line managers to ensure engagement, understanding and commitment to sponsor the women
  • Six face to face modules dealt with critical areas of women’s leadership development, e.g. confidence, authenticity, networking and influencing, strategic planning, resilience
  • E coaching ensured that participants remained goal oriented
  • Networking events with speakers from the CEO down, providing role models and inner secrets
  • Projects requiring the women to give something back by developing other women
  • Face to face and telephone coaching at several points
  • Grande Finale with CEO, Executive and all line managers hearing the women present their successes
  • A dedicated team of White Water experts to present, coach and work with the women throughout

The main deliverable we set the WWG team was to crystallise each woman’s ambition and prepare her for the next job. Within months, women were already accelerating their development and careers, applying for internal and in some cases external advancement. This programme took place during a time of uncertainty due to the restructuring of the business. Many women felt lucky that they had had the support of the team and other participants as this helped them remain positive and focused on planning their careers constructively. After just 3 months, line managers were approaching us to line up women for the second programme – even before budgets had been allocated! Critical to the success of this programme was the building of good relationships with the executive and management. The content had been designed around our experience and the research we had conducted for our book Coaching Women to Lead. This programme proved that we had covered all the right issues – especially when we were commissioned to run the second cohort.

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