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Brain circuits

You found the right woman to join your top team: What’s next?

Published 8 March 2022 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

It’s critical to have female representation at every level of your company, but many organizations think they’ve done their job once they’ve appointed a woman or two at the top. Ask yourself these questions to test whether you have created an environment for female leaders to thrive.

Have you put in efforts to avoid tokenism?

When people see the addition of women to an executive team as having been done to “check a box” they are likely to see the newcomers as less legitimate and are therefore likely to disregard their contributions. Explicitly linking your effort to diversify your top ranks with your firm’s strategic imperatives is one way to avoid these dynamics.

What have you put in place to ensure she can quickly integrate into your executive team? 

Newcomers learn how the firm and top management team works from those already on the team; this learning tends to occur more quickly among people who know each other already or can relate more easily – both of which may be less likely for new women appointees. It’s important to put things in place so newcomers can quickly understand and connect with the firm and other managers.

Who on your top management team has experience working with women in the C-suite?

These people can help the executive team develop productive and inclusive dynamics because they have experience with and have developed some aptitude for reconciling divergent values, especially values female executives are likely to bring to the top team. 

How will you ensure that your team thoroughly engages with the ideas women bring to the C-suite?

You’ve hired someone for their unique perspective, competence, and knowledge. When they bring new or different ideas to the table, how they connect with what the firm is doing may not be immediately understood, so others may be reluctant to engage with those ideas for fear of being seen as confrontational, exclusionary, or sexist., the management team needs to learn to argue with ideas that may seem “different” and “off” by constructively connecting with novel ideas, for example ensuring time is spent elaborating on those ideas and perspectives so that they are understood, rather than simply dismissed.

Authors

Corinne Post

Professor of Managment at Villanova Business School

Corinne Post is the Fred J Springer Endowed Chair in Business Leadership and professor of Management Professor of Management at Villanova School of Business. Her research examines the role of diversity as enabler or impediment to group and organizational performance.

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