Despite being equally represented at the beginning of their careers, women are poorly represented in leadership and executive positions in businesses and organisations throughout the world.
There is now an awareness of the economic and organisational benefits of having greater representation of women in senior leadership roles. This has become a focus of governments and businesses. Nationally and internationally, it has been recognised that providing women with support in the development of their leadership potential is critical to achieving gender equality in the workplace.
Wellbeing coaching is a support tool that businesses and organisations can utilise to help women in the advancement of their careers and development of their leadership potential.
Coaching that is aware of the differences in women’s career paths and of the barriers women face to their career progression to leadership roles, and is specifically tailored to women’s professional developmental needs, will be more beneficial for women seeking to advance their career.
A number of career barriers specific to, or more elevated for, women have been well documented. They include;
- Organisational culture
- Lack of networking opportunities
- Lack of mentoring was a common theme.
- Return from parental leave
- Work/family life balance
- Geographical issues
Wellbeing coaching can form part of any program aimed at increasing women’s engagement, development, retention and advancement into leadership roles.
Coaching should be tailored to the individual however some of the particular areas relevant to many professional women include:
- Authentic professional identity: Research shows that construction of a professional identity is linked to leader development. A woman’s leadership presence is an important factor affecting the development of her leadership identity. Coaching can assist women in reframing their view of leadership to fit with their personal attributes so that they feel authentic and genuine in their leadership role. Coaches can tailor aspects of coaching to assist women in constructing their professional identity.
- Leaning in: Coaching for confidence and empowerment can also assist women in leadership development. Coaching can be tailored for women to better understand their strengths, to improve confidence and to lead in an authentic way so as to bring their unique leadership abilities to the table.
- Bias: Research has shown that gender bias does operate at some levels in most businesses and organisations. The reflection and insight gained in coaching can help women become aware gender bias and in turn set goals to ensure they are more active in seeking promotion, mentoring, and to better position themselves for career opportunities.
- Limiting beliefs are a barrier for women in their career advancement. Wellbeing coaches are well equipped at helping women identify limiting beliefs and gain insight into how they are often based in fear and not reality. The wellbeing coaching framework reframes limiting beliefs and helps clients develop the courage to step outside of their comfort zone and pursue goals.
- Life balance: Women overwhelmingly have the double burden of balancing work and home duties. Wellbeing coaching, which has a particular focus on achieving alignment in all areas of life, is well equipped to assist women in navigating the personal factors which inevitably impact on career advancement.
- Return from parental leave: One common barrier cited by women is parental leave. This period is often stressful and women have reported feeling isolated, on the outer and overlooked. Wellbeing coaching can play an important role at this time for women.
- Stress: Stress management is a hallmark of wellbeing coaching. It helps people get to the root cause of their stress and control their responses to it. Wellbeing coaching can help people retrain their thinking around stress and this in turn can lower the incidence of burn out, increase emotional control, focus and energy.
- Maintain healthy lifestyle: The struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle has emerged as a real cause of stress for Australians, particularly women. Lack of time and family and work demands are a barrier for women to achieving a healthy lifestyle. Wellbeing coaching, focused on time management, boundary setting, identifying what drains energy and daily healthy habits, is an ideal tool for women wanting to improve and maintain their overall wellbeing and in turn reduce stress and improve performance.
Wellbeing coaching has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and enhance wellbeing, self-efficiency and self-regulation. When someone has a greater sense of wellbeing they have, ‘…a greater sense of personal confidence, job satisfaction…as well as being better equipped to deal with change and workplace stressors.’
Wellbeing coaching can assist women by giving them strategies to navigate their complex and interwoven professional and personal lives so they feel confident to seek out and reach for leadership roles in and outside their organisations.
It is important coaching recognise the distinct barriers and challenges women face in their careers so as to help them realise their ideal vision as leaders in their organisations.