The Benefits of Coaching Women Leaders

By Taylor Ingel, On Oct 19th 2020

Why is coaching women leaders important?

What is leadership?

What is leadership? Leadership doesn’t automatically happen through promotions or a hierarchy, and it is not necessarily synonymous with management, either.  Leadership, instead, is a social influence that can empower those around you to follow you and work towards a common goal. 

As it turns out, women have many skills that can make them successful leaders.

Why is coaching women leaders important?

Coaching women leaders is important because it can improve their confidence and relationship to work, which can be two of the barriers that prevent women from reaching leadership positions in the first place.

Business and career coaching are becoming increasingly common to help executive leaders reach their organisational potential, and because everyone has inherently different skills, it is important to tailor coaching styles to a client’s needs.  Executive coaching and high-performance coaching are two very effective ways to address the business’s needs through the individual. Likewise, coaching women leaders is a very effective way to address gender inequality in middle and upper management positions.

Historically and culturally, women didn’t always have equal opportunities in the workplace. In many cases, they still don’t.  

Even though women are well represented in lower-level positions, they are less likely to get promoted to a management position than men. McKinsey reports that “for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 85 women were promoted,” which resulted in 62% of managers being men, as compared to 38% of managers being women. When a senior executive is looking to promote a manager, they look to the middle-level managers. When only 38% of these middle-managers are women and 62% are men, the probability of a woman being chosen for the promotion is already lower, just based on chance, which then limits the number of female role models for lower-level and younger employees.

The same McKinsey study says that part of the reason for this has to do, first, with the pressure of responsibilities at home. Especially as our work and home lives tend to intermix, mothers are constantly working a double shift with the tasks of their jobs, homes, and children. This doesn’t directly affect their work performance, but taking advantage of things like flexible scheduling and working from home implies to colleagues and managers that women are less invested in their careers than their male counterparts. As a result, women are less likely to express their work-life concerns and more likely to feel stress over how their performance is being judged. 

Corporate coaching for women in their life and career is proven to reduce stress, increase motivation, and improve coping skills so that the dual pressure of work and home does not affect performance.

Furthermore, implicit biases cause us to associate the qualities of being a good leader with masculinity, when in fact, this is not always accurate. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, implicit biases cause us to act on the basis of prejudice and stereotypes without the intention to do so. In this case, the subconscious associations between men being leaders or women being nurturers give us- and senior managers- the impression that a man is more suited for a leadership role than a woman.

Many studies have proven our implicit biases incorrect. When it comes to leadership, women are just as capable as men, and actually score higher than men in many areas that are key to distinguishing a great leader and an average leader. A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) finds that women are transformational leaders and mentors who help other employees develop their skills and creativity. They encourage others to contribute in a democratic fashion. They recognize and reward good performance, which encourages continuous improvement. They are rated higher in areas such as resilience, initiative, emotional intelligence, innovation, and management of relationships. Leveraging these qualities through coaching is a great way to help meet your business’s needs.

What is interesting, though, is that when asked to evaluate their leadership capabilities, women tend to score themselves lower than their male counterparts.   

Executive coaches understand this. Coaching women leaders can be a different experience than coaching male leaders because women face different challenges in the workplace. APA has found that the two main things that can inhibit women from stepping up and taking charge are self-confidence and the overall attitude towards a “bossy woman.”

Forbes finds that coaching women executives helps to increase self-awareness, manage the politics of business, and overcome the limiting beliefs that come with being a woman leader.  Developing women who are lower or middle-level managers support the progression of female leaders. As mentioned before, only 38% of managers are women, so if coaching can increase that number, there will be more women role models and diversity of perspective at the management level. Finally, coaching is proven to help women with performance, satisfaction, and well-being in the workplace, especially when women are more subject to scrutiny at higher levels of an organization.

The implications of this are astounding. When companies have a diverse board, they are found to make better decisions. This can be seen in financial results from a study by Catalyst: for companies with the highest number of women board members, return on sales were 42% higher than companies with the least number of women board members. Better representation in leadership drives better results.

Even Oprah Winfrey has had success in coaching, and Oprah’s life coach, Martha Beck says that coaching allows us to develop skills to help others and generate changes on a greater scale. Women leaders can make changes; they just need a chance.

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