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Video

Julie Coffman: Getting Women to the Top

Four things companies should to do to help the women in their organizations reach full potential.

Video

Julie Coffman: Getting Women to the Top
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Research shows that environmental factors both at home and at work can make the career climb for women more difficult than for men. Julie Coffman, who chairs Bain’s Global Women’s Leadership Council, shares four things companies should do to help the women in their organizations reach full potential at crucial midcareer moments.

Read the Bain Brief: Charting the Course—Getting Women to the Top

Read the transcript below.

JULIE COFFMAN: Getting to the top requires the right skill set, but also the right mindset. And we notice that women are getting the top less frequently than men. Twenty-five percent of senior leaders are women and only four-and-a-half percent of CEOs. So what is getting in their way?

We think there are environmental factors both at home and at work that are contributing to making this climb more arduous for our women. On the home front, women are more likely to have a spouse or partner with an equally or more intense job than their own. And if there are kids involved, women report themselves as six times more likely to have the primary caregiver role.

On the work front, we've long had unconscious bias and other cultural norms in the workplace that make it difficult for women to always contribute at the full level and full capacity that they can. And so this combination of these factors really does make for a much more difficult climb and requires a huge amount of perseverance, energy and time, right midcareer, when women are making the choice whether or not to stay the course.

We believe that frontline managers hold the key to trying to help women maintain and increase their levels of aspiration and confidence during these critical midcareer moments. And there are four things that frontline managers can do to really make a difference.

One, tell women, your high-potential women, that they can do it, that you believe in them, that you can see them advancing to that next level. Second, paint many models of success and demonstrate there's lots of different ways to be successful at your organization and on your team.

Third, we think it's important to prioritize the everyday interactions, as opposed to just the major conversations around performance reviews. And last, it is important that you support the whole worker and not just the person that shows up in the office. But be aware of the other surrounding factors that can contribute to a woman's willingness and readiness to work.

Frankly, nothing that I've mentioned doesn't also apply to men and will help all people, all their talent, rise to the top and be able to reach their full potential. But we believe that these four actions have differential impact for your women and will really help them get to the top.

Read the Bain Brief: Charting the Course—Getting Women to the Top

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