What are leaks in the pipeline you may ask?
When we speak about leaks in the pipeline, we are referring to a failure of progression in industries, and underrepresentation of certain demographics. In this case, we are referring to women-identifying persons, who face barriers in progressing to the next level of their careers because of a system that exists in both our society, and in the workplace, leading to leaks in the pipeline that follow.
As the Founder of Locelle, a 1:1 tailored mentorship platform that navigates obstacles in the workplace by matching leading women in tech and high-level roles, with women at companies for professional development, these are the following 3 main leaks in the pipeline that I have identified through findings:
- Lack of representation and role models.
- Stereotypes and unconscious biases.
- Democratization of access.
Lack of Representation & Role Models
If there is a distinct lack of representation regarding senior leadership in the workplace, women who work at that company will have the assumption that they won’t be able to reach that level. Simply put: because they don’t see anyone that looks like them who is in a high-level position.
If they don’t believe they can climb up the ladder successfully, especially if they have been at the company for a few years, this can lead to them leaving for a company that does have more diverse representation. Or alternatively, they could be left feeling frustrated and stuck in the same role, reducing productivity and retention. It’s a huge problem that many companies face, but there are fixes for this:
- Hire more women in leadership positions. Whether that means promoting somebody within the company, or actively outsourcing and recruiting with a gender diverse mindset. This is really important for workplaces in particular that have only-male leadership teams.
- If this is the case, and there is no access to women in leadership, provide that access.
For example, at Locelle, we partner with companies who both have, and do not have women in leadership roles. So we provide access to women leaders outside of their company to give them the tools and advice that they otherwise wouldn’t have. The mentors are a living playbook of sorts! They help navigate different situations such as conflict, how to ask for a raise in a way that resonates, improving public speaking, etc and all from women leaders who have already done it.
Stereotypes and Unconscious Biases
Stereotypes and unconscious biases are huge topics; and breed into everything. If you look or dress a certain type of way, especially as a woman, people tend to have a certain perception of you. My experience was that people did not see me as a CEO, even though I was always smartly dressed. There is this disconnect without even realizing, an unconscious bias that forms where you question if a woman can be a CEO and found their own company!
Traditionally, you don’t see women starting their own tech companies as often as men. This is where biases come in and the need to steer away from that.
- Attend or organize conferences and roundtables that are based on ‘Stereotypes and Unconscious Bias’ with expert speakers in the field. This is important for founders and leaders specifically, because if as a founder or leader, you do not actively seek education on stereotypes/ unconscious bias then you won’t end up hiring women in high-level positions- because you’re so used to seeing men in those roles.
- Another fix: through education and awareness, by seeking expert consultants, services and attending women-focused events. Do what suits your business in terms of accessibility, education can be whether you choose to actively seek it, or if it’s delivered through a program.
With bigger companies, there’s unconscious bias and all sorts of Diversity and Inclusion training, but what about the companies that are just starting up? Who is doing this for the founders and leadership teams there? That’s why the above tools are so important. It’s the intention of learning and making a change, realizing that there is a problem and doing something about it.
Democratization of access
This is in relation to whether it’s knowledge, education, opportunities, learning & development. We at Locelle democratize access in specific ways by assessing the individual’s needs.
For example, some people are confident public speakers, but there could be other employees who are just as capable but need help in that area. This could be because of how they were brought up, past experiences, they may be an immigrant with good communication skills but a lack of confidence. We work to pair them with mentors who give them the access to make improvements.
Access to learning and development is something that is key because that’s when you can really assess what the challenges are, and then provide guidance within those areas.
- Access to mentorship programs, classes and training that provide knowledge, education, opportunities, learning & development.
At the end of the day, no two people are created equal, but how do you provide equal opportunities? It’s through looking at where they need help and giving it to them. That’s how we can truly work towards fixing leaks in the pipeline and create an equitable workplace, through tangible actions that can be tracked and measured, seen and heard.
Join our International Women’s Day Event on March 8, 12- 1 pm to learn how to create a more equitable workplace, to resolve those leaks in the pipeline!
Humaira Ahmed is the Founder of Locelle.
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