Tara Osullivan Getting more women in leadership positions

Automatic Summary

Moving Forward: Ensuring More Women in Leadership Positions

In modern workplaces, it is critical to start actively working on promoting more women up the ranks. As we look higher up the corporate ladder, there are increasingly fewer women, with an even more significant underpresentation of women of color. Here's a detailed view of the challenges women face and steps for how we can overturn this trend.

Recognizing the Issue

Despite common misconceptions, the slow progression of women in leadership roles isn’t because women don’t ask for promotions. Data shows that women at entry level are 18% less likely to be promoted than men, and the reason isn't their lack of asking. Observations reveal that those who receive promotions often do so because they are sponsored or mentored. This points to a deficiency in the provision of substantial sponsorship and support for women internally, in many organizations.

Women often tend to take on non-promotable tasks, such as taking meeting minutes or organizing events, instead of things that would get them promoted. While progress has been made to address this issue, there's plenty of road ahead of us.

Taking the Leap: Actions to Overcome Barriers

  1. Dismiss the Predilect to Apologize: Women tend to apologize more often, even for situations that aren't their fault. The existence of tools such as Gmail plug-in, ''Just Not Sorry'', underlines the extent of this issue. It is essential for women to own their success and not feel the need to apologize for it continuously.
  2. Disregard the Term "Bossy": It is crucial we do away with the negative connotation attached to the term "bossy" when applied to women. Leadership qualities should be praised, not diminished because of gender.
  3. Advocate for Sponsorship over Mentorship: Acquisition of a sponsor who can speak on a woman's behalf when she isn't in the room can significantly aid in encouraging promotions and opportunities in an organization.

Revising the Old Ways: Changes Needed in Organizations and Society

For progress to ensue, organizational and societal changes have to occur. Here are ways modifications can happen:

  • Change in Meeting Dynamics: Women need to actively participate in meetings, not just be spectators. This includes sitting centrally and voicing opinions assertively.
  • Balancing Boards: Boards need to seek female members outside of the conventional spaces of ex-CEOs or other boards to increase diversity.
  • Revise Job Descriptions: Organizations need to rewrite job descriptions and performance management processes to remove inherent sexism.
  • Improved Funding for Female Founders: Greater funding for female-founded companies can be achieved by putting pressure on shareholders and shifting the systemic bias in current funding practices.


Striving towards gender equality in leadership roles is not just beneficial for women; it benefits everyone. Actioning these points can make a significant impact, adding between $12 and $28 trillion globally by 2025. It’s time to start driving progress, hire more women, provide them the required support, and hold on to the invaluable women we have in the workforce.

For any queries, reach out to Tara O'Sullivan via [email protected] or get in touch on LinkedIn.

Video Transcription

OK, everybody, I'm going to start, um I want to be able to see the chat. So I'm actually going to put my powerpoint just in this mode rather than presidential mode if that's OK. Um So I'm here today to talk about getting more women into leadership positions.Um Obviously, the, the major focus of this is um in order to try to make sure we have more women in leadership positions and, and get them into more V pe etc etc as you know, as everybody, I'm sure knows here there is the higher up the corporate ladder you go, the fewer women, it's worse for women of color.

And basically, it starts really at the first, the first manager role that women actually have. So we actually progress a lot slower than men do as well. Um And a lot of the time people assume that's because women don't ask for promotions and we're promoted a lot slower than men are entry level, which is a really important one are about 18% less likely to be promoted than women are. And that is a lot of people say that's because we don't ask and that is absolutely not true. It is not because we're not asking for promotions. We, um what, what we find is that people who get supported tend to get promoted. People who get sponsored and mentored tend to get promoted. And um the other piece of it is that so we're not providing real sponsorship and support for women internally in a lot of organizations in a formalized way or informal. But also you find that a lot of men um apply for jobs when they have about 60% of the ability. And they think they can do about 60% of the job. Whereas women wait till they're doing about 100 and 50% of that role, which is um uh you know, something that we have to teach women uh that they can actually lean into a role when they have still have things to learn in that role.

And there's a really interesting piece of research where it's um women have women put their hands up for a lot more non promotable tasks, like taking meeting minutes, organizing events and getting lunch, that kind of thing. And basically they put that energy into those kind of selfless things rather than into things that ensure they get promoted to the next role, which is really interesting. So, um things have got a little better as we all are aware. Um But so this is an example though that I looked at recently of care what comes up on career women when you look up um getting images, which is what we use in the organization. So, you know, it's still, there's no real such thing as career man, which I find interesting female CEO is something that everybody talks about. You know, they don't talk about just male CEO S. So um so it's not exactly fantastic. So what can we do about it? And I'm very real believer in action, Trump's anxiety. I think there's a lot of anxiety, women, especially around what's happened with COVID, which I'm going to talk about in a minute. So these are kind of things that we can talk about right now. OK. So one of them is just not sorry, women apologize a lot. Um a lot and I think, oh, that's fantastic. Natasha. That's brilliant men t to and I'll talk about that in a minute. Um The just not sorry Gmail plug in is really interesting.

The fact that they would, we would even need something like this that says your tone is actually um self deprecating. Um So there's a, there's a plug in you can get for Gmail that kind of analyzes your emails and underlines what's self deprecating or what's, what's making you seem really passive or something like that, which is really interesting. Um We also, I think need to own our own success. So a lot of the time when I do this all the time when people say um uh really well done. It was a great event or whatever. Um I'll go as a team or we were really lucky with the timing or whatever it is, whereas men will go. Yeah, that was me. Thank you very much, kind of thing. Right. So that's really interesting as well. So, owning our success is really important and not just deflecting all that over to somebody else. The other piece that's really interesting is that what men constituted offensive behavior is much, much higher threshold than, than women have. So, um and I realize this is very binary as in men and women. I realize there's a whole spectrum of, of genders, but right now, that's what I this is what I'm talking about.

Um So what men would need to apologize for would be much more offensive than what women feel the need to apologize for, which is really interesting. So we spend a lot of time doing that. The next one is bossy is a word, especially with girls is a very negative word and it's perceived as really bad and negative and um we should be getting rid of it. So the lean in and girl scouts did a really nice piece of work in the US about two years ago around um banning basically the word bossy and basically talking about it in terms of leadership skills. And this actually happened in my hand where one of my daughters came home and said that she'd been called bossy. In school and it was like a really bad thing and I was like, well, what's wrong with that? That's great. Your leadership potential. Um So, um that's really interesting. So using words really matter, they really matter how we use them, especially to girls and about girls and in front of girls. So I think that's really, really important is banning bossy and this is where Natasha and I might come to rouse and I think it's all about getting sponsorship, not mentoring, right? I do believe women in a lot of cases are mentored to death.

And we have a lot of people telling us what we should do and shouldn't do. We do not have a lot of people talking about us when we're not in the room. And if you think about it, a coach talks to you, a mentor talks with you, whereas a sponsor talks about you and what we're trying to do is we're trying to get more people in the organization who are in positions of power to make sure that um that they're, they're speaking about really high value women in the organization to make sure that people get promotion and people get opportunities, the roles.

There's a really annoying Mike Pence piece, which is, is actually not just Mike Pence and it's not about politics. It's just that he kind of embodied it for a little while. Um Last year, basically, his view is that he didn't want to be alone with a woman. And I think the, the, the if you look at what mentorship sponsorship is available to a lot of junior women, it's men because they're in the positions of power. It's invariably white men because they're in the positions of power. So men shying away from mentoring women is really difficult. And it also underlines that age old thing of that, you know, men can't be in the same room as a woman because they won't be able to control themselves, which is nonsense, obviously. So getting a sponsor is incredibly important. Um The other one is meetings. I have a huge issue. A lot of the time with um how women sit at meetings and how women take part in meetings. And they've shown that um a lot of the time women are sitting around the edges so they won't take up the central role. Um There's a lot of man explaining what's happening that is not being picked up by other women in the organization. Um So I think that's really, really important to you and I think as women, we need to call men out for that, right? We need to make sure that people understand that.

Actually, I think if we can go back to Susan's point, rather than allowing another guy to kind of take Susan's idea and run with it. Um I think it's really, really important, we start to point that out and that's something we can do, right. Now, um we look like part Spectators instead of participants. And I think that's what's really, really important that that doesn't happen. Um COVID has really been a massive issue for us here. Right. So a lot of people are saying that 45% of women leaders were saying that they couldn't, they couldn't interrupt to get their point across in a lot of the virtual meetings. And I think that's something that's, that's, that really needs to be dealt with. There's a great, there's a great piece called Ally, which is, is a piece of software that basically records meetings and determines what proportion of times women were interrupted, talked over what, what, what proportion of the air time they actually got and a lot of the time they find that women speak 25% less than men do.

So this is all about sharing, right? You have to make sure that the sharing is done in a way that is um, affair and that you're starting to pull the right people in not just letting one or two people talk over everything. So the allyship is, is really, really interesting to me. I think that's phenomenal. Um This is really depressing. It starts really young, like really, really young. Um If, if you, there's a lot of things in this, in this deck which obviously you'll get a copy of. But, um, you, there's a couple of things that were really interesting. Parents are twice as likely to Google as my son gifted and as my daughter gifted. Right. It's just facts. Um, it's about five and six that girls start to see themselves as less than boys. So, really, really early on and a lot of this is to do with how teachers are taught to control or accept boy behavior because that's just boys being boys versus when girls act out. Um, which is really interesting and the last point there is when Children were asked to draw a mathematician or a scientist, girls were twice as likely to draw men as they were to draw women, which is really depressing. And then the harassment piece which is everyday life for lots of people found that one in 10 American girls under the age of 11 have actually already been harassed.

So, um there's a lot of conversations that need to happen, I think with Children, with boys and with girls to make sure that they understand exactly what um what is acceptable, I suppose and what's not the other piece that's really important is that hiring needs to change right there, there's a lot of work that's been done around job descriptions and the sexism, inherent sexism and job descriptions that's really, that needs to go away.

There's various tools out there that you can put your job descriptions through to make sure they're not um leaning towards masculine adverbs or adjectives or verbs and that they're seen as a lot more neutral Right. Um There's really sad statistics which is, um, you know, if you change the name on a CV to a woman's name, there's a 61% differential in them getting a call for an interview. Um, and a lot of women, well, 66% of women when they're getting performance reviews, get reviews, get comments about their, um, you know, inherent characters. So you're seen as too pushy your boss at using that name word again, that are not really um actionable characteristics, right?

So, so men will get um commentary on things that they are absolutely changeable, measurable data based things. Whereas women, it's much more usually about um their assertiveness and confidence and they're expected to be nurturing and empathetic. So it's really interesting. So we need to rewrite job descriptions and need to change the performance management process for women because it's failing women an awful lot, an awful lot. Um The other piece that's hugely important is boards need to be balanced, right? And when people go looking for members of a board, they tend to go looking for ex C Os. And obviously, if you think about it, an awful lot of American women are not CEO S as we know of the Fortune 500 I think there's three today. Um And I think it's really interesting um to when you actually try to build a board, if you want to make it more diverse, you need to make sure that you're looking in areas other than just other boards or other ceos because you're not going to find diverse women of color and you're not going to find women in those places.

Um, one of the things that I think is really funny is, well, it's not funny at all actually, but I, I, like, I could talk about conscious and unconscious bias for a long time. But one of the things that was really interesting is um Arianna Huffington was on the Uber board a couple of years ago with David Bonderman and she had started to talk about the data that's out there about how if you have more than two women on a board, the company starts to behave in a very different way and becomes a lot more successful.

And he interrupted her and say, and said, I know what will happen. There will be a lot more chat, which seems unreal that Arianna Huffington is facing the kind of issues that other women in our positions face. But um there you go in the UK, it's, you're legally required to have a certain number of women on the board. And um they did a piece of research to ask why there weren't more than one woman on the board, which is the requirement, right? There's a, there's a requirement to have a certain number of diverse people on the board. And these were, this is really well publicized at the time. Um All the good women have been snapped up. So there's a perception that there's no pipeline of women coming on. Um, most women don't want the hassle or pressure of sitting on board. Believe me, we do, it would be phenomenal. Um You don't need to make that decision for me. So it's really interesting to see how people self logic this to themselves. You know, and I think that's, that's really interesting. Um, I think it's really important to get white men involved because they're in a lot of cases, have the control and can get us, get us involved. And there is definitely a concern with some men with mentoring women because it's being seen as, you know, in some way sexualized or something like that.

Um But I think the other thing that's fascinating is that 50% of men think that women are well represented in leadership, um which is really interesting and I think this also goes to the piece of, there's this concept of, um, and this really came up in COVID of, of the kind of, um, the, you've got a second eight hour shift that you have to do, get home for childcare and cooking and cleaning and all that kind of stuff.

But there's this third idea of an emotional shift which women do where they think about birthday presents, they think about how the kids are doing in school. They make sure the dog license is bought, they make, you know, and they're constantly, constantly thinking about the next thing how the lounge is going to be decorated the next time and all that kind of stuff that they're taking on and not really, it's not being shared. A I is really interesting. I think a I is incredible. But, um, it's really interesting because it's only as good as the people that are in the room running the software. Right. So, um, one of the things that I find interesting is that when the Apple, my Apple watch is charging, but when the Apple watch came out, you know, it tracks everything but there wasn't a period tracker on it which just shows that the women were not in the room or not even near the room.

Um to kind of get that as part of what should have been part of it. Um There's, there's a really brilliant piece of research that was done, um that looked at the amount of jobs that women would lose versus men as A I took over. So if you look at those, these are the top 10 jobs careers that, that A I is going to wipe out. And you think about cashiers, 93% of cashiers are going to go and 73% of cashiers are women. So there's a massive requirement for organizations to upskill women who are in these roles. And I think there's, there's, um there's a requirement on us as leaders in organizations to request that if we're in retail, heavy jobs or, you know, where there's even comp benefits managers which is in every organization or bookkeeping that we're upskilling them and getting them to the next level.

So I think that that's really, really important as well. Um COVID has been horrific. It has been as we all know, horrific and there is now unbelievably one in four women considering leaving the workforce. And we're looking at going back to 1919 80 levels of women partaking in the in the workforce. And if you look at where women usually work, if, if it's hospitality, it's mostly women, retail was shut down and it's mostly women. Um If you also look at healthcare, the majority of healthcare workers are women as well. And so they were affected from the, from the front line perspective as well. And the UN showed that there was a massive increase in domestic violence as well during this time, which again was really well documented. Um But you're basically looking at during COVID, women's jobs are 1.8 times more likely to be affected. And um even after COVID, there has been a real awakening, I think by women that they're not, they're not no longer taking part. So we really have to try and hang on to the women that we have hire more women and make sure that, um you know, we don't have this mass evacuation of women from the workforce, which is, which is going to be really, really difficult to fill.

Um, obviously we're paid less. We all know that and that's again well documented. But what's really interesting is that if you have a 40 year career, you sound to lose about a million on average over the lifetime because you're behind your male counterparts. Right? And the K back pay, the pay gap is worse for women with Children, Asian black women and his women. Right. So it's, it's much worse from that perspective. And again, that's something that can be proven with really good HDM systems. You can prove if there's a difference in pay, you can also prove if there's specific people who are only hiring the same people as them. So there's various kind of alerts in HDM system that can allow you to do that. Um Funding for female founders is really low. It's about 3% of the amount of money that's out there. Um There's a huge viewpoint that women aren't, you know, tough enough when they talk to the private equity companies. So what's happened now is that a lot of, there's been quite a few private equity companies started by women, um which is, you know, which is really good. And I think there is, um you know, the companies with all male founders received funding after their first round, 35% of the time. Whereas for women, it's only 2% so that there's a massive difference in that.

And shareholders of those private equity companies obviously should be holding them responsible for diversity and things like that. Um There's massive gender gaps. Ryanair is the worst one. But the other thing I would say is that it's really important for men as well, right? It's not pie. OK?

And if you look at the impact on men for a non equal society, they have a much higher proportion of suicide. They get less access to their Children after divorce, they get way less funding, excuse me, from the men's health perspective. And um there's a massive impact for men as well as for women. Um And so that's, that's kind of where I am. And the last thing is, you know, a lot of people, they're, they're, it's all about money and if we included women in leadership positions and increased equity, you would introduce between 12 and 28 trillion by 2025. So, thanks so many for listening. Um Any questions I am Tara dot o'sullivan at a.com. You can get me on linkedin and it's been great talking to you and good luck with the rest of the conference and I look forward to talking to you soon. Thanks a lot, everybody.