Where the why is clear for the existence of the Women’s Leadership Academy, the motivation behind why I started it has not been brought to light until now and I believe this is an appropriate time as we kick off the International Womens Day weekend. The Academy is an online program that will specifically prepare women for the challenges they face on a journey to the top of their organizations.
Working as an executive in a male-dominated industry for two decades, I became convinced that women could be better leaders. I also knew that the only way women would ever achieve gender equality is if they had gender equality in leadership.
After my brother, one year my senior died, I contemplated my legacy. I decided I wanted to make it possible for women anywhere in the world to become senior leaders. I believed the right way to do this was through education. Next, I began researching what the education needed to be. For this I had to answer, why are women being kept from senior leadership.
I approached four universities with a proposal to financially support women in leadership programs. The responses I got were confirmations of what I was uncovering in my research – unconscious bias against women was the biggest factor deterring women from senior leadership. Finally, one university agreed, and we signed an agreement to move forward. In short order, the faculty revolted against a requirement, which was supported by copious amounts of academic research, to address the impact of unconscious bias on women advancing their careers. The program collapsed.
I spoke with a number of other female professors and they commiserated on the trouble they had experienced trying to get academic administrators to agree to the need for women in leadership programs.
At this point, I altered the who, what, when, where and how of achieving my legacy. I would have complete control over making this happen and my target objectives were expanded. I didn’t need students to pay thousands of dollars for this education and the program would be offered online. This allowed me to adopt a motto of no women left behind. Any aspirational women anywhere that doesn’t have the nominal tuition fee of $100, can apply for a scholarship. With complete control over the curriculum, I could internationalize it and ensure that 100% of the program was focused on resolving the distinct issues women face in becoming senior leaders.
The program is currently in beta testing. There are sixteen modules and fifty classes. There are two major themes: first, teaching awareness to manifestations of unconscious bias that thwart women’s careers followed by ways to neutralize bias; and second, to give women a competitive skills advantage. The latter makes sure the competency of aspiring women for senior leadership is not denied while allowing women that want a family to have one and be able to succeed at home and at work.
To learn more and sign up for the Women’s Leadership Academy, please go here.