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07.07.17

Community of Practice for Emerging Female Leaders

Rowan Hillis, Senior Research Consultant

Any time I’m in the members’ area of the RDS, I’m always struck by a wonderful feeling of serenity, and love that it is such a great contrast to the hustle and bustle of Ballsbridge. As a venue, it has managed to keep the traditions of an era gone by, whilst at the same time embraces and facilitates current trends and needs. 

Inspired to establish an Amrop Community of Practice for emerging female leaders, Friday June 16th, saw us bring together a fantastic group of women to explore the key issues impacting women as they seek to navigate the journey from management to leadership. Was it significant that our first exploratory gathering happened to fall on Bloomsday? A woman’s journey through her career could certainly be seen as an odyssey. As females progress towards leadership roles, they can be faced with second-generation gender bias, identity threat and a leadership development programme that fails to account for a culture in which female leaders are not seen as equal to men. 

The purpose of our focus group was to identify the key topics that need to be on the agenda to ensure that women have the tools at their disposal to navigate the obstacles and challenges they encounter, as well as to benefit from the influences and supports already out there, as women move from management to leadership. 

My colleague, Deirdre O’Shaughnessy, and I were struck by the enthusiasm, generosity and commitment from the eight executives, who are currently in different stages of senior management or in leadership positions, to share their experiences and insight. Our flip chart was soon busy with accurate pointers and rich nuances that we will use to shape an agenda for this practice to be of benefit to aspiring and ambitious women. 

We focused on two questions, central to this community: 

1.What were the most pivotal development interventions during your career as you transitioned from management to leadership roles?

2.What do you feel are the key topics that need to be on the development agenda for emerging female leaders?

The range of responses led to a fascinating conversation, highlighted many areas that are challenges, and, more importantly, identified effective methods and tools to overcome these. Stepping up, increasing and sculpting profiles, leveraging networks and availing of support were consistent themes. As we look to put together a series of speaker-led events, we will also be spending time exploring the different advantages to mentoring, coaching and sponsorship. There is a heartening appetite among senior female leaders in this community to ‘send the elevator back down’ and enjoy supporting up-and-coming talent to carve a fruitful road ahead.

We’re really excited at the energy and enthusiasm we felt from a community that is eager to contribute to an inevitable world where bright women are unencumbered in utilising all their talents in corporate, social and governmental organisations. There has been much talk about the challenges women face as they progress in their careers. We have a clearer than ever understanding of how bias can translate into practical scenarios. But now it’s time to cooperate in moving things forward, to work together, learn from each other and reshape the landscape of the business world for everyone’s benefit.

Like the venue this practice began in, we are ready to take a traditional status quo and bring it forward in a way that meets the expectations of today’s and tomorrow’s community. It’s clear that all we need to do is provide the setting, tune the piano and let our participants make fine music which we hope will play on for future generations.