“We cannot all succeed if half of us are held back.”
Bob Eng, Chairman of the Board and Senior Advisor for WINGS for Growth (WINGS), is a savvy businessman, and a caring and inspirational advocate for women as leaders. I was given the privilege of speaking with Bob about his thoughts on the professional development of women, tapping into their valuable talent, and how an organization like WINGS for Growth can help aspiring young women achieve their dreams.
From this motivational conversation, I learned that even 100 years after women were given the right to vote, women still form only 5% of the top leaders in the world’s top organizations. What can be done about this? Bob talked about wonderful ways to empower women leaders. Here are the top four.
1.Men and women leaders must advocate for and advance talented women. It makes business sense. This is, by far, the most effective way to create an environment in which women can thrive
2.Help women build public speaking and improvisational skills to enable them to speak up confidently and have their ideas heard
3.Provide or allow for paid family care (child care and elder care) at the work place. Family care should be thought of not as women’s issues but as family issues. Providing care in the work place or paid time off eases the stress for men and women of having to choose between family and career.
4.Remove the stigmas attached to traditional gender roles. These stigmas can often discourage women from pursuing careers in male-dominated and future-proof fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
AC: Why is it important to have younger women in a mentor/advisor program?
BE: Identifying talented and aspiring women earlier means having more doors opened for them and have a longer runway for potential successes.
These women will have more sponsorship opportunities, more guidance and more tools to reach their goals. With more experience under their belt, when the time comes, they are more likely to advance than their peers. Since senior advisors have connections in various fields, mentees are able to explore their interests and broaden their horizons and network. Mentors can pick up the phone and set up meetings with other leaders in the industry. Ultimately, WINGS offers a rare opportunity for early-career women and emerging women leaders for personalized and outcomes-based mentoring that is independent of an employer and affordable.
AC: It sounds like guiding young women who arrive at WINGS is a great step in laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s outstanding leaders, but what about women outside of WINGS? What can we do to help women all over the world succeed in today’s world?
BE: Men and women leaders must advocate for and advance talented and aspiring women. It makes simple business sense to fully unlock, unleash, and develop the creativity and productivity of half the world’s talent. Still, it takes mindful and concerted planning and effort. Because in most countries and most sectors, men dominate leadership ranks, men and women must take on this cause. Advancing women leaders is good for men and women.
Women leaders understand best the challenges that aspiring women face to reach leadership positions. And the latter look for women role models at the top. Women leaders should advocate for and sponsor talented and aspiring women. They are also in a position to continually educate men about the value of advancing women. At the same time, men should view talented women not as a threat but as precious partners in building a better world and workplace for themselves and their children.
At a micro or group level, women and men leaders should be sensitive to different styles of communication. For example, women may not speak up in group settings as much as men, or when they do they feel they are not heard. Women and men leaders should create a safe space that invites every participant’s voice, and enable employees to build public speaking and improvisational skills. Diverse ideas lead to better results, but leaders have to invite those ideas and when needed give them voice.
AC: What other changes can be made in order to help women succeed in the workplace?
BE: Certain aspects of life need to be spoken of not just as women’s issues but as family issues. Child care, adult care and housework still tend to be thought of as a “woman’s job”. We need a paradigm shift.
While there is progress, it is still important to stress that these responsibilities should be considered family issues. Having policies and practices such as paid paternity leave, on –site child care and even paid leave for elder care can enable men and women to balance work and life and ease the struggle of having to choose between family and career. For some talented women, not being there for their families can discourage them from stretching in their careers. By enabling work life balance, more men and women can flourish in their work.
Learn more about Bob from this video interview with him on why he chose to be part of WINGS and which leader inspires him most.
Bob, and the team at WINGS, believes our mentoring program is a strong step in the right direction for creating strong, future leaders. Senior Advisors, like Bob, are very enthusiastic about what is to come for our new, women mentees. The environment at WINGS is open and nurturing, and offers any and all support that an individual may need.