The Problem with Women’s Conferences and Women Resource Groups

I recently spoke on leadership at a women’s conference here in Boston and after my talk and speaking to some of the women who attended my session, I came to realize that the problems we face in organizations today are still being solved on the surface. High employee turnover, the problem of engaging millennials, retaining women in STEM and advancing women to leadership positions are issues that keep resurfacing.

Let’s take the problem of retaining women and advancing women to leadership and C-suite positions for instance. You will find that countless women’s conferences are held daily across the globe, women’s resource groups are created to educate and empower women but the issues still linger. Why? Because the leadership lid of the organizations these women belong to have not being raised. Women continue to go for leadership training and are empowered with different solutions but they go back to work and hit a road block because the highest leadership positions are still held by men. Men who do not have any resource groups for them or men’s conferences to attend. The men in these leadership and executive positions are the “lids” of the organization. And those lids are set really low. According to John Maxwell, the higher the leadership lid of an organization, the higher the level of effectiveness. That is, the higher the level of empowerment, integrity, vision, good values, conducive culture and improved communication.

Those on the lowest level of the organizations are getting their personal leadership lids raised but cannot become effective, drive change and yield results because it is near impossible to rise higher than the lid above you. If your organization is a level 4 organization or put another way, if the leadership team’s lid is at a 4, that organization cannot advance higher than a 4. The women are getting their lids raised to 5’s and higher but that doesn’t mean anything because they have level 4 leaders above them.

“I wish my boss was here to hear this”

I hear of so many individual contributors who complain about their bosses. When I teach my leadership classes, at least one or two people in the class would tell me: “My boss needs to hear this”, or “I wish my boss was here, he’s the one who needs this class not me”. I attended another women’s event once where most of the women at the event belonged to an organization that had recently gone through a merger. This was negatively impacting the employees, and guess what? the said employees were the ones listening to a talk on thriving through change. The stories of pain I heard from the women suggested that they were getting the short end of the stick because of the merger and they were the ones who needed to learn how to adapt. Why, because the leadership “lid” of the organization was really low. True and effective leadership takes into account the well being of employees, ensures that employees don’t burn out and encourages a strong culture. But because these were lacking, the employees had to learn to lead up. Leading up is not the best for any organization.

Until we begin to raise the leadership “lids” of organizations across the board, we will continue to struggle with the issue of diversity, employee engagement, and retaining women in the STEM and leadership positions. It’s as simple as exposing management to true and effective leadership. Open these amazing and empowerment conferences to men and create white male resource groups and in no time there will be room for advancement, growth and effectiveness for all involved. I believe it’s time to ditch the women’s only conferences and organizations (for the most part…they are still useful) so that everyone can be on the same page.

Kemi is a former engineer, certified John Maxwell Leadership Coach, Speaker and Trainer, and owner of The Growth Studio. The Growth Studio provides performance improvement and leadership development coaching and training services to help science, engineering, technology and healthcare organizations discover and close the gaps keeping them from reaching their goals and achieving sustainable growth that comes through a strong organizational culture. We work with organizations, individual contributors and leaders by providing the tools to help them solve problems, improve performance and reach their greatest potential. We provide jargon free and easy to implement solutions to help you crush the problems that are keeping you from achieving the results you want. .

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