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Going up: Creating infrastructure for women and leadership.

Updated: May 30

girls going up in escalator

As a strategist, mother, and mindful leader, I look upstream to understand why some women do not pursue processes or positions of leadership. While the influence for young girls to envision themselves as capable of achieving their ambitions first begins in the home, creating a vision of unlimited possibilities in the workplace is crucial for young women to begin the developmental process of “seeing it to be it”.

It does not matter if she is a barista, a retail clerk, an intern, or an assistant. It does not matter if she works locally, at home, or within a global corporation - every industry is capable of hosting the leadership and responsibility of forging pathways for girls to self-discover their potential.

Why girls? Because we live in a patriarchal nation. Young boys and men are often encouraged early on to consider their future, their impact, and how they will provide as "heads" of a household. Young girls are not as often invited to share in these future-minded dialogues. Societal norms, gendered roles, and adopted belief systems are most responsible for keeping young women small, quiet, and destined for singular purposes. Women are complex. And when society embraces her complexity, it grows more determined to establish the infrastructure capable of supporting her abilities to thrive, under multiple, and intersectional, circumstances.

"As a parent, I cannot think of a more responsible reason to bring a human into this world other than to support the flourishing of a life's full expression."

Business owners who desire to use their resources to bring about societal change become business leaders. Business leaders host the capacity, the systems, the opportunities, and the commitment for helping turn ambition into a thriving and flourishing ecosystem - for men, women, and families.

Here are three ways business leaders can create an environment that supports human flourishing:

  1. Sponsorship. Mentorship is often recommended for women as a supportive advice-giving role, whereas sponsorship is reserved for young men. Sponsorship offers the resources to actualize a vision. Mentorship is often relational and communicative, whereas sponsorship is action-oriented and can include the possibility of an investment opportunity. It’s the difference between thoughts and prayers (for emotional support) and policy and change (for actual advancement).

  2. Clear organizational flows. Organizational flows include onboarding, skills development, collaborative opportunities, and guideposts to advancement. These structures host unique junctures for shedding light on potential, unearthing passions, and exposing multiple paths forward. If there is no path, or the path is not illuminated properly, self-actualization is harder to practice and roads turn into dead-ends. The obstacle of a “glass ceiling”, where upward mobility is visible, but out of reach, the “labyrinth” of tangled up pathways, or the “glass cliff” of being hired to nurse an organization back to health, stand less chance of derailing a determined young woman when they are presented as sure and steady from the get-go.

  3. Strategic evaluations. Performance reviews are not just about job performance, they host a prime opportunity for engaging in dialogue with the whole employee. Strategic questions about organizational goals can transition to personal and professional goals - laying the groundwork for leadership to establish a fellowship, where young women’s work is more than just a means to organizational success, but a mutually beneficial relationship that can both enrich individual productivity and enhance the collective workplace culture.

One of the hidden benefits of business leaders making organizational changes to support human flourishing is word of mouth. Did you know word of mouth, even in this digital age, remains the #1 method of successful marketing? Now, think about marketing - or magnetizing - the right employee. When young adults love their job, when they feel supported, valued, invested in, and fairly compensated, not only does their performance reflect gratitude, but they are talking about how working for YOU is changing their life. They are magnetizing other high-performing employees to want to work for you, too. By having a process, a clear path, young women can begin the art of envisioning something, even multiple things, for themself.

escalators going up and down

My work within the salon/spa industry was to create an engaging assistantship program, where newly-graduated cosmetology students could onboard with us to advance their basic education, improve their skills from working, seasoned professionals, and build their business in an environment dedicated to increasing their success. Hosting this program and taking the time to create this infrastructure, positioned us as a desirable employer. And not just to any graduate, but to the most ambitious, most eager entry-level professionals.

As a parent, I cannot think of a more responsible reason to bring a human into this world other than to support the flourishing of a life's full expression. As a leader, I cannot comprehend a more responsible opportunity than to oversee an operation that champions optimal potential in those I serve. Motive matters.

At an early age, when a young girl begins to experience our patriarchal society's reaction to her voice, she will need you. When she steps into her first job, she will need you. When she begins to date, continue her education, travel the world, or serve her community - she will need you. She needs you, for protection, defense, and advocacy. Or, she will not need you at all. She will need someone with the capacity to host room for her to figure herself out, the grace to allow her to fumble with understanding, or simply to be someone who is not afraid to evolve alongside her.

Will it be you? Or, rather, can it be you? How might your role, as a parent, teacher, business owner, or community leader, create the infrastructure that supports her?

When you are ready to have a dialogue on how you can build a place for leadership, from within the space of your ownership, you can contact me here. Consulting on organizational frameworks and helping you design strategic processes that humanize your workplace, is my sweet spot.


[resource: DeFrank-Cole, L., & Tan, S. J. (n.d.). Women and Leadership.]


* listen to the podcast episode related to this essay HERE

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