There is no shortage of excellent articles, books, workshops, and development programs for women to help them advance their careers. There are also a multitude of solutions offered to corporations around policy and governance.
Unfortunately, there are very few resources available to men, who don’t necessarily understand the unique challenges women face and are uncertain of how best to provide support and advocacy.
After identifying this need, Dr. Sarah Bodner, managing director of Featherstone Group, created Developing the Lady Boss, a coaching and education program for male leaders that provides them with a practical guide and useful tools to support women’s development and career advancement.
Featherstone Group has developed a unique approach to growing the number of female business leaders. They take a proactive and positive approach to the part of the equation – men – that is most often ignored and sometimes vilified in the conversation around women in corporate leadership.
“Most of the gender related materials for male leaders are associated with what not to do,” explained Bodner. “Developing the Lady Boss takes the opposite approach and provides them with very practical tools and guidance on how to support female leaders.”
She explained that “Developing the Lady Boss” is not about “fixing” the female leader, the male boss, or the environment. The focus of the program is on:
- Providing simple tools that are useful for developing both males and females
- Helping male leaders understand the gender specific challenge female leaders encounter
- Opening up the conversation and removing some of the discomfort and uncertainty that men experience on the topic
- Crafting actionable plans to support the specific women they are developing and/or championing
According to the program’s construction, it is not diversity training, it is applied talent development viewed through the lens of gender. The result is skilled male leaders who can be strong partners in growing the number of female leaders within their organization.
“Developing the Lady Boss” is designed to support male leaders who:
- Understand the value that women bring to corporations and boards.
- Have responsibility for developing other leaders within the organization.
- Want to understand the unique challenges women face in order to better support and advocate.
- May be hesitant to discuss gender issues because they don’t want to risk accidentally offending.
- Are mentoring a woman who is currently in a leadership role or a high potential woman who will soon be in a leadership role.
Bodner said perception plays a significant role in leadership. “We all have mental schema and when something varies from that, it can create discomfort. Women in leadership roles often counter the mental models of both male and females, which can complicate career advancement. When males serve as advocates and allies, mental models of female leaders begin to shift. This helps to reduce some of the obstacles in the path to success not only for that woman, but for all future female leaders.
“The simpler answer is that business environments are comprised of both males and females,” Bodner continued. “To be successful in the long run, women (as well as male) leaders need advocates and mentors across departments, levels of hierarchy, and professional areas. Realistically many of the individuals in those roles will be men whom women will need to support and advocate for them.”
“Developing the Lady Boss” is offered as an open enrollment workshop a few times a year. It can also be customized for in-house use to support talent development efforts within a corporation. For more information, visit thefeatherstonegroup.com/LadyBoss.