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Inspiring Women to Lead: A Necessary Part of the Gender Parity Change Agenda

As an expert in the advancement of women leaders, Susan MacKenty Brady explains how women are able to inspire one another through their leadership roles.

Are we getting confused about the important role of women’s leadership programs in the advancement of gender parity? I have recently heard (and read) comments that suggest women’s events “don’t work” and we must “stop fixing women.” Allow me to weigh in. Without the removal of organizational barriers and the presence of new ways of working, simply encouraging women to step into their full leadership potential won’t result in their accelerated advancement. However, I have found that women are filled with inspiration and motivation once they hear from other women – usually in an organized setting designed to engage and inspire women to lead- who thought big about their own leadership potential and who made it to the top of their chosen fields. Who doesn’t want to be inspired about ones potential, unique strengths, and personal power? Challenging women to think about if they are leading in big ways is a critical part of the gender parity agenda. Here’s why:

Being talked over / not listened to, implicit and explicit societal encultured messages (e.g. “girls / women must be…”) and ways of working that are riddled with constraints for women (e.g. lack of flexibility to work from home in a knowledge-economy job) can negatively impact a woman’s desire to lead.  I have seen over and over that these factors can erode (or prevent altogether) two things in women: 1) our belief in ourselves, and/or 2) our energy to “fight” for what we need if we are to fully step in to our leadership potential.  Believing in oneself is something I have devoted a good amount of time over the last decade thinking and writing about, and dedicate an entire chapter in my latest book about, Mastering Your Inner Critic. I have been honored to share with the world (and practice for myself) a simple way to hold myself in warm regard and return – sometimes moment-to-moment – to an authentic belief in myself. In fact, I take very seriously the job of managing my own worthiness because there is no shortage of opportunity to think that I might not be enough, worthy, ok right now.

If women can master the work of believing in themselves despite the context in which many of us still live and work (a working world that wasn’t initially and still isn’t altogether built to be a place where women can thrive as leaders) then organizations can make the needed decisions to alter the barriers that keep women from stepping in (and up) to greater leadership. This “fight,” however, the one most women need to engage in either explicitly or implicitly in order to make the job of leading work for them, needs to be fought by the organizations that seek more diversity in their leadership ranks. This isn’t special treatment, it is ensuring a level playing field and providing the needed (and potentially different) equipment for all players to succeed.

There is no shortage of research about what organizations can do to accelerate gender parity in leadership. In the meantime, what you can take to the bank is that the majority of women who are selected to attend an inspirational or educational women’s leadership experience, or those who decide for themselves to attend an event, leave inspired to think bigger about their own potential. 94% of the women who attended the Simmons Leadership Conference in the last year said they would come again and 96% would recommend attending to a colleague or friend. Why? My belief is that women are awakened to what’s possible for themselves, and leave these events thinking bigger.

So, while scholars and practitioners work to identify and remove the very real organizational barriers that prevent women from having the opportunity or desire to step up and in to bigger roles, we must continue to inspire women and remind them of their power and unique strengths and our need for more women to lead.

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Inspiring Women to Lead: A Necessary Part of the Gender Parity Change Agenda
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SUSAN MACKENTY BRADY inspires, educates and ignites leaders globally on fostering a mindset of inclusion and self-awareness. As an expert in the advancement of women leaders, Susan advices executives on how to create gender parity in organizations and motivates women at all levels of organizational leadership to fully realize—and manifest—their leadership potential. Recently featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, Susan is the author of Mastering Your Inner Critic and 7 Other High Hurdles to Advancement: How the Best Women Leaders Practice Self-Awareness to Change What Really Matters (McGraw-Hill, November 2018), and The 30-Second Guide to Coaching Your Inner Critic (Linkage, 2014). Susan has keynoted or consulted at over 500 organizations around the world, and is passionate about creating gender equity in leadership. As Managing Director of the Institute for Leadership at Simmons University, Susan supports the development of women leaders, and oversees the Simmons Leadership Conferences, executive education program offerings, and the Center for Gender in Organizations. Prior to joining Simmons, Susan was Executive Vice President at Linkage, Inc. a global leadership development consulting and training firm. She founded Linkage's Women in Leadership Institute™, which boasts a network of over 15,000 alumni worldwide and is now in its 20th year. Susan launched Linkage’s global practice on Advancing Women Leaders and Inclusive Leadership, and led the field research behind the 7 Leadership Hurdles Women Leaders Face in the Workforce™. Susan resides in the Boston area with her husband, two teenage daughters, and two Portuguese water dogs.