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  • The Dynamic of Gender Identity and Implicit Bias Impacting Women

    The Dynamics of Gender Identity and Implicit Bias Impacting Women’s Executive Leadership Development Programs and Female Executive Coaching

    Emelina Bellé, M. A., School of Leadership and Education Sciences, University of San Diego


    “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”  – Albert Einstein

    The implicit gender bias and stereotypes in our society continue to impact gender diversity in executive leadership roles within organizations. The critical demand of high-potential talented female leaders to fill the gap in the corporate pipeline of senior executive positions continues to increase in our global world. Our technologically advanced society impacts this demand, the global climate of organizational change, the competition in products and services, and the impact of implicit bias and gender stereotypes influence corporate growth, innovation, long-term sustainability, and financial stability.

    Organizational performance depends upon advancing gender diversity by promoting female leaders into the organizational pipeline. The current dearth of qualified leaders in organizations can improve by providing Women’s Executive Leadership Development Programs and Female Executive Leadership Coaching to women leaders, thereby decreasing the perilous leadership gap and increasing organizational performance and individual performance. Empirical research studies have measured the outcomes of Women’s Leadership Development Programs, and Executive Leadership Coaching for female executives demonstrated improvements in individual and organizational performance and economic and financial successful outcomes.

    The analysis of the measurement documented by research in supporting gender inclusion in identifying female executive leaders, providing Women’s Executive Leadership Programs, and providing the efficacy of female Executive Leadership Coaching in organizations. Thereby, demonstrating the connection between women’s leadership development programs and coaching female leaders as a predictor of organizational success. The overall results included increasing executive women’s abilities to provide leadership in team building, strategy, productivity, communication, goal setting, self-confidence, active listening and creating a shared agreement between individual and organizational objectives. According to research studies, (Feldman, Lankau, 2005), the creation of a framework for the leadership development programs and coaching of female leaders contribute to a positive financial outcome and improvement in individual and organizational performance.


    Throughout the historical span of recorded ancient and modern global history, men have been prominent in maintaining elite leadership roles in positions of authority and power. In recent modern times, the women’s rights movement has opened doors of opportunity for the small percentage of women in leadership positions to increase. The Glass Ceiling metaphor exchanges with Labyrinthsuggesting that for women acquiring a leadership role is a process of navigating. (A. Eagly, L. Carli, 2007).  The gender leadership gap of women underrepresented in organizations continues to persist despite organizations proactive attempts to close this gap. However, in America, women’s ascent into executive management positions and senior leadership roles are impacted across various industries including political, executive, law, and academia. Even after remarkable advances, female leadership is still underrepresented and quite elusive in elite power positions affecting the talent pool of leaders at national and global levels.

    Women still only hold 2.2 percentage of Fortune 500 CEO positions in organizations and a female leader in an elite power position is rare indeed. (Catalyst, U.S. Women in Business, 2011). Our world requires dialogue and conversation regarding gender and female leadership in addressing the barriers and challenges women face leadership roles in our organizations in the twenty-first century. The world is changing at an unprecedented pace and men, and women need to collaborate in creatively resolving our demand for effective national and global leadership.

    The implicit gender bias weaved into the unconsciousness, and the very fabric of our culture and society is a result of our outdated stereotypes of masculine and feminine gender roles (A. Eagly, L. Carli, 2007). Even though research studies show that participants rank men higher than women in leadership ability, the research has clearly demonstrated that women consistently outperform men in the top sixteen competencies of senior leadership and lead in the overall leadership effectiveness by gender and position (Zenger Folman, Inc., 2011). Our current organizations today do not value feminine aspects of authority, power, and leadership. Thereby incorporating an approach that embraces both masculine and feminine traits of leadership provides an organization with diversity to meet the uncertainty and volatility facing our global challenges today.

    The scarcity of excellent global leadership today across all industries, it is vitally imperative that organizations have equality between the sexes in opening the gateway to female executive leadership roles is crucial to the well-being and benefit of our communities, organizations, and global economy (A. Eagly, L. Carli, 2007).  Women make up one-half of the world’s population, and they deserve equal access to education, health, economic participation, and political empowerment. Gender equality encompasses a significant amount of humanity’s progress in combining men and women’s resources and talents. As of today, we still have a global gender gap, and no country has closed the gender gap. The Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland are in the top tier of closing the gender gap. The United States ranking is at 20 out of one hundred eleven countries (Global Gender Gap, 2014). The magnitude of gender disparity of women underrepresented in the top tiers in positions of power in politics, business, academia, and finance are clearly evident according to The World Economic Forum’s The Gender Global Gap Report, 2014.

    The framework of Executive Women’s Leadership Development Programs and Executive Women’s Leadership Coaching in women-only groups help to advance women into leadership roles (R. Ely, H. Ibarra, D. Kolb, 2011). Although the Feminist movement in North America has made significant progress for gender equality for women in leadership roles the statistics reveal the gender dynamics deeply entrenched in our organizations (R. Ely, H. Ibarra, D. Kolb, 2011). Women CEO’s represents 5.4 percent 27 positions of Fortune 500 and 54 in Fortune 1000 organizations based on the Catalyst January 2017 S&P Fortune 500 list (Catalyst, 2017). Female leadership in elite power positions are rare indeed both nationally and globally (Catalyst, U.S. Women in Business, 2011).

    Unfortunately, the majority of executive leadership roles in corporations are occupied by men in the top C-suite top senior level executives including chief executive officer, chief operating officer, and chief information officer, across all organizational levels. In politics, women hold 21.9 percent of positions in national parliaments globally (World Economic Forum, 2014). Women hold 18 percent of Congress, 10 percent of governors, and 12 percent of mayors in the one hundred largest cities in the United States (Catalyst, 2017).  In the law industry, nearly half of law school graduates are women. However, only seventeen percent become partners in major law firms with only twenty-two percent becoming Fortune 500 general counsels (Rhode, 2016).

    Women in the finance industry underrepresented with only 11.4 percent of women in CFO positions in Fortune 500 companies in 2013 (Fortune 500, 2013). There is 17.6 percent of women finance officers in finance and insurance (Fortune 500, 2013), and 22.3 percent of the female board of directors in finance and insurance industries (Financial Post 500, 2013). Although women now outperform men in the percentage of graduation from college in the completion of bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees, there remains a disparity in academia with twenty-five percent are full-time female tenured professors’ at large universities and presidents of colleges (Rhode, 2016).

    The United States has an impressive amount of higher education colleges and universities with forty-six of the world’s top one hundred universities (World Economic Forum, 2011).     According to the The Times Higher Education World University Rankings of the 2015-2016 list of the best global universities (World Economic Forum, 2011). Women as faculty professors in higher education represented by 41.8 percent of full-time faculty. Although, the percentage of women is similar to men there are disparities. In 2009 women’s academic employment was 28 percent of appointed full-time professors and in 2010-2011 female faculty salaries were 20 percent less than their male counterparts (World Economic Forum, 2011).

    This multifaceted, deep-seated issue stems from several underlying structures including unconscious, implicit sexism in our society, cultural stereotypes, women’s life/work balance, masculine and feminine roles, exclusion from networks, women’s public policy, and lack of leadership development for women in the corporate pipeline (Rhode, 2016). This exploration of issues of the gap of women’s executive leadership roles, the leadership development programs, and executive leadership coaching in creating opportunities for women to enter leadership positions in organizations.

    As our world and technology continue to evolve, we are in need of global leadership as our organizations expand throughout the globe. Expansion in technology is leading to changing demographics in both the workforce and among consumers. Women are using and consuming technology and other products and entering the science and technology industries. Therefore it is imperative to have female leadership in executive corporate positions to provide diversity in understanding the thoughts and values of this shifting demographic. There is a small percentage of female leaders today in executive leadership roles in corporate and as presidents/prime ministers of nations including Indira Nooyi, PepsiCo, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President Liberia and Angela Merkel, Chancellor Germany (W. Ngunjiri, S. Madsen, K. Longman, 2015).

    Women’s Executive Leadership Gap

    According to the Mercer, a leading global provider of consulting and investment services, the United States Women’s Leadership Development Survey (2010) demonstrated that while organizations are working on creating a diverse workforce. The vast majority 70 percent are lacking a strategy for developing female leaders into the corporate pipeline for leadership roles in organizations (Mercer, 2010). The survey provided an overall approach to the development of female leadership including financial, banking, healthcare, technology, government and public sectors and received a total of 540 leadership responses from diverse organizations within the United States. According to the survey, 43 percent of organizations do not offer women’s leadership development programs; 23 percent offer some form of program, 19 percent only monitor progress; 5 percent have a current women’s leadership development program and only 4 percent plan to include this program for the future in their organization (Mercer, 2010).

    Respondents asked how well the organizational culture and climate support the development of women leaders with 43 percent stating a moderate amount of support, 27 percent pronounced extent of support, 21 percent a small amount and 7 percent none at all. (Mercer, 2010). Organizations surveyed regarding the extent of being very concerned about the lack of women’s leadership development programs. Twenty-one percent are concerned about providing women’s leadership development skills required for qualifying for senior leadership positions; 21 percent in the retention of female leaders once they achieve a leadership position, and 20 percent about not having enough women in the leadership pipeline; 15 percent in accelerated the development of women with early career high potential;  15 percent women in leadership not advancing at the same rate as men (Mercer, 2010). “The majority of respondents indicated that their organizations were somewhat concerned or not at all concerned about most aspects of women’s leadership development…it does not fit with organizations’ concerns today around diversity… Most respondents seemed to feel strongly that their organizations should pay greater attention to this issue.” Colleen O’Neill, Ph.D. (Women’s Leadership Development Survey, Mercer, 2010, p.1)

    The respondents identified their biggest challenges in bridging the female leadership gap in advancing into leadership roles in organizations. The following study included these factors as barriers to advancement in the organization: A noteworthy deficiency of an executive sponsor 43 percent; The insufficient breadth of experience 36 percent to apply for leadership roles; The competing demands of work-life balance are 31 percent; A lack of an executive mentor with expertise in a leadership role within the organization; The willingness to move and relocate the family and spouse/partner. The insufficient depth of experience and projects leading to visibility to senior leaders. The lack of executive leadership potential precisely a lack of female role models and mentorship. The lack of opportunities for career promotions in the corporate pipeline, and not in staff support positions. Especially noted was the absence of support from upper management (Mercer, 2010). Unfortunately, only 30 percent of the respondents stated that their organizations provided a gender-specific women’s leadership development program and mentoring and support from management with approximately half reporting that they extensively implemented some reporting minimum or not at all utilization of these programs (Mercer, 2010).

    Representative quotes from the survey respondents in improving women’s leadership development programs in organizations included the following: “Provide more opportunities for emerging leaders to get visibility and face time with the executive team.” “Acknowledgement of the need and specific plans for developing women in leadership.” “Better understanding of valid programs that are economically sensible and add value.” “Creating a mentoring/coaching program specifically designed to develop women leaders.” “We need to have planned and intentional rotation assignments for identified female high potentials.” “Have our women feel there is a place at the leadership table for them.” (Mercer, 2010, p 3).

    Representative quotes asking the biggest challenges women face regarding development as leaders included the following: “There is not enough recognition that this targeted development is important.” “Lack of visibility and exposure, as well as executive sponsorship.” “(Lack of) opportunities to move to positions across the company to gather a broader depth of experience.” “Traditional values held at the top of the organization maintain an organization resistant to change.” “(Lack of) leadership support regarding specific policies targeted for women.” “Most women in our organization struggle to be able to relocate or work on a long-term global assignment, due to spouse work commitments and inability to trail.” (Mercer, 2010, p.2).

    Literature Review Analysis

    According to Johns (2013), women are a crucial component to America’s economy making ninety percent of household decisions and representing four trillion of spending annually. However, even with increased higher education levels with sixty percent of women obtaining bachelor’s degrees, and accounting for fifty percent of women now in the workforce, women continue to be underrepresented in top-level executive positions in organizations (Johns, 2013). Catalyst 2011 study depicted fifty-six Fortune 1000 companies with zero female leaders in executive roles (Johns, 2013). Today, women hold less than five percent of executive leadership positions, and ten percent of corporate officers (Johns, 2013). Most astoundingly, women occupying the top level executive leadership positions are a mere 2.4%, with the compensation salary of female leaders in the same level positions is only 1.9% of their male colleagues in the organizations (Ragins, Townsend, Mattis, 1998).

    The phenomenon of this gender disparity is the key barriers of implicit bias and gender-based stereotyping in organizations impacting the invisible barriers that women experience in climbing the corporate ladder and obtaining executive leadership roles in organizations while navigating through the glass ceiling and challenging the status quo (Raggins, Townsend, Mattis, 1998).  Sanchez-Hucles, Davis, (2010) provides new terminology describing the challenging obstacles of female leaders including the concrete wall, the sticky floor, and the labyrinth.

    The Glass Ceiling Commission was established by Congress in 1991 for the sole purpose of organizations to identify high-potential female leaders, provide leadership development and equal compensations (Johns, 2013).  The commission’s results indicated that over ninety percent of female leaders have come across invisible barriers preventing their ascent into executive leadership positions (Raggins, Townsend, Mattis, 1998). Additionally, earning only 70 cents for every dollar in comparison to their male colleagues, with the implicit bias against women who are mothers decreasing earning salaries to 63 cents in the same level positions within organizations (John, 2013).

    Gender diversity of women in executive leadership positions in corporations across the  United States is far from achieving parity with fifty-six of Fortune 1000 companies having zero-percent female leaders on their boards of directors (Johns, 2013). Research studies have demonstrated a clear link between gender diversity and promoting women into executive leadership roles as increasing higher performance and profitability (Adler, 1998). McKinsey & Company (2007), reported companies with gender diversity on their boards of directors had greater growth in stock prices and financially outperformed non-diverse companies.(McKinsey & Co, 2007). According to Johns (2013) study provided similar findings with organizations having a higher representation of women in executive positions demonstrating an increase in stock prices when companies launched an Initial Public Offering IPO (Johns, 2013).

    Leadership historically is defined by masculine characteristics of “think manager-think male” gender stereotypes leading to an implicit bias for women seeking executive leadership roles in organizations (Eagly, 2007: Ryan & Hassam, 2007). The “double-bind” female leaders’ face in navigating which masculine and feminine characteristics to employ in their leadership leadership style leads to a crises for women (Eagly, 2007; Ryan & Hassam, 2007). A vicious cycle whereby there are not enough women in positions of authority and power to enact new policies that would beneficially support women in the workplace due to the highly male-dominated system that is currently in place (Bennetts, 2012).

    The review of the literature validates the critical executive leadership gap and organizational changes in corporate organizations in America and globally. Compounding this phenomenon of the oldest Baby Boomer generation who are leaving the workforce for retirement, or simply leaving that company, or becoming self-employed entrepreneurs.  This precarious loss of senior-level executives of Fortune 500 companies expected to 50% of CEOs, Presidents, and  Vice-Presidents (Anonymous, RHR International white paper, 2005). Instead of this shortage of qualified candidates in the corporate pipeline, organizations are investing significant amounts of resources into identifying high-potential leaders. These executive leadership development programs and executive leadership coaching are estimated to cost approximate fifty billion for the promotion of managers into these leadership roles (Lockwood, 2006).

    Executive Leadership Development Programs are defined as, “ formal and informal training and professional development programs designed for all management and executive-level employees to assist in developing the required leadership skills and styles to deal with a variety of situations’ (Lockwood, N.R., 2006, p. 5). The research studies support the findings that organizations who have a structure in place of identifying high-potential leaders to develop and promote leaders provide shareholders with a twenty-two percent increase in the return on their investment (Collins, 2001). Overall, the leadership development programs are a combination of learning and development information and experiences in leadership competencies including the Leadership Circle 360’ Profile, high visibility assignments in direct line roles, executive leadership coaching, and face-to-face time with senior management (Collins, 2001).

    Executive Leadership Development Programs backed by research studies conducted by Day, Jackson, Lockwood, Farndale, and Kakabadse intertwined into the organizational objectives, strategy, and vision in directing business goals leading to innovative growth and sustainability. (Day, 2001; Lockwood, 2006; Jackson, 2003; Farndale, 2003); Kakabadse, 2003). The development of leadership for high-potential leaders “should be carried out within a strategic framework rather than as a separate and isolated process so as to deliver business results” (p. 186).

    Organizations have come to the realization that to be contemporary and fluid within globalization, and the ever-changing worldwide business, it must open its guarded gates and broaden the horizons of inclusion and gender diversity into its executive ranks (Collins, 2001). Gender bias and masculine/feminine stereotypes have prevented women from effectively breaking the glass ceiling and entering these high leadership roles. Several research studies using the leadership circle 360’ instruments have measured the high effectiveness and performance of female leaders in organizations to counter perceived gender bias (Wells, 2001).

    The Personnel Decisions International Corporation conducted this study with 58,000 managers/directors and concluded that women scored higher than men in twenty out of twenty-three management assessments in organizations (Wells, 2001). Men and women ranked equally on cross-functional capability with women ranking higher than men in leadership competencies. These include vision, strategy, execution, talent development, influence, negotiation, versatility, relationship building, trust, dialogue, stakeholder success, entrepreneurship, adaptability, delivery, professional career, empowerment, judgment and leading groups (Wells, 2001). Clearly, organizations are extremely underutilizing a valuable human capital resource that is readily available to develop the leadership potential of their organizational systems.

    The literature review links transformational leadership theory with female leaders in inspiring awareness and communicating the organization’s goals in place of their individual goals benefiting the organization as a whole entity (Jogulu & Wood, 2006). Mandell & Perwani (2003) concluded that women scored higher on the transformational leadership scale and that “characteristics of a feminine model of leadership, built around cooperation, lower levels of control, collaboration, and collective problem solving and decision-making” are imperative in our modern global organizations (Jogulu & Wood, p. 244).

    Factors Affecting Women’s Leadership Development

    Challenging Organizational Contexts

    There are unique, challenging factors in female leadership that impact women in structures within organizations, the integration of work/life balance of family and career and stages women progress in their career trajectory (O’Neil & Bilimoria, 2005). It is crucial for women’s executive coaches and women’s leadership development programs to address these issues regarding the social constructs in the workplace (O’Neil, Hopkins, & Bilimoria, 2005). Female managers and leaders are still not provided the equivalent amount of executive coaching and leadership development as their male colleagues in their organizations (Laff, 2007).

    Additionally, women are not receiving the valuable feedback and mentorship from their managers in developing their leadership roles (Ely, Ibarra, & Kolb, 2011). This combination is of vital importance in comprehending the dynamics of the gendered context in which female leaders work within the organizational structure. Therefore, acquiring a leadership presence is crucial in leadership development for women in strengthening their voice, communication, and engagement in leadership roles (O’Neil, Hopkins, & Bilimoria, 2009, p. 76).

    There are three key factors which affect women’s leadership development programs namely challenging organizational contexts, work/life balance, and career/life stages for women who are ambitious in climbing the proverbial corporate ladder (O’Neil, Hopkins, & Bilimoria, 2015). The gender bias entrenched within the social constructs of organizations creates masculine defined stereotyped behavior roles in which overt gender discrimination replaced with subtle forms of invisible gender inequality just as potent but challenging to pinpoint and is known as second-generation gender bias ( Eagly & Carli, 2007; Ibarra, Ely & Kolb, 2013). This deep-rooted implicit gender bias established over long periods of history within our government policies, culture,  political and societal structures leading to hindrances for women seeking leadership roles (O’Niel, Hopkins, & Bilimoria, 2015).

    According to the research conducted by Burke, Koyuncu, and Fiksenbaurm (2008, p. 279) “The biggest obstacle to career advancement for women is the attitudes, biases, perceptions and behaviors of their male colleagues.” These female executives attributed the gender bias of males in leadership positions in their gender stereotyping of women for the lack of females promoted into executive leadership roles. The presence of gender bias is evident in the Leadership Circle 360 Profile studies conducted in the leadership competencies between men and women leaders measuring their leadership performance. Even though the study found men and women to be equivalent, and even though women scored higher overall in leadership skills, the gender bias against women is still prevalent with men being perceived to be more competent in leadership roles ((Hopkins & Bilimoria, 2008).

    The organizational structure in companies places women in a “double-bind” meaning that if they act in a masculine stereotype manner with the typical male characteristics of being assertive, direct, competent, strategic and confident, it flies in the face of our cultural and societal feminine stereotype characters of being motherly, compassionate, caring and nurturing (Catalyst, 2007; Eagly & Carli, 2007). The double-bind dilemma comes into play when women take on the feminine roles in an organization and are viewed as incompetent, soft and weak and when they act by a masculine role they it is even worse as they are perceived as overly aggressive, controlling and domineering. So, they are mostly damned if they do and damned if they do not lead to an impossible no-win outcome. Therefore, women facing challenges in overcoming gender bias in the workplace, are held to higher performance standards, are more scrutinized for their behavior, have less opportunity for mentorship from managers, are not provided with leadership development programs, less access to visible projects leading to experience into access of the corporate pipeline, and less opportunity to advance in leadership roles. (Eagly & Carli, 2007).

    Work/Life Integration

    The work/life balance integration issues that female leaders face balancing the demands of professional careers, raising children, relationships, and marriages is a challenging concern. Coinciding with the height of their peak career success generally in their mid-forties when the demands of family and career at both at their maximum peak (S. Sandberg, 2013). The social construct of masculine concepts embedded into the linear corporate ladder typical in organizational models has been firmly established since the industrialization age (Sabelis & Schilling, 2013, p. 127). “It is assumed a family model with a male breadwinner and a female home-worker, enabling each other full dedication to the tasks (profession or home-related) and an uninterrupted life course within one system (family or profession).”

    According to the research studies conducted by O’Neil, Hopkins, and Bilimoria (2013) these paradoxes have been identified as organizational structures requiring the distinct separation of masculine and feminine gender stereotyped roles between career and family. The outdated model of linear career achievement based on the support of the female responsible for the managing the home and taking care of the children still stand today “still focused on the obstacles women face due to the compartmentalizing of work and life, the challenges of balancing work and family the persistent male model of career success…” (O’Neil, 2013, p. 74).

    Life and Career Stages

    The ever-changing phases impact women’s leadership career options that they find themselves in permitting to the approximate age ranges. According to O’Neil and Bilimoria (2005), they found three distinct life-stages that affect female leaders in their leadership roles including idealistic achievement, pragmatic endurance, reinventive contribution. Young adult women emerging into the early years of their career aspirations found themselves want to have it all in the idealistic achievement phase with the principal issues being self-confidence and self-identity. The pragmatic endurance phase brings about a reality check with women having to balance various demanding career and family obligations and the focus of the main issues revolved around a search for meaning and self-esteem (Maniero & Sullivan, 2005; O’Neil &Bilimoria, 2005).

    In the senior leadership years, women entered the contribution phase whereby providing meaning for their organizations and a legacy for the family became the primary focus with significant issues on authenticity,  integration, and respect. Overall, female leaders regardless at what phase they are currently in want the combination of professional career success, and family and relationships (Hopkins & O’Neil, 2007). The proposal of a female professional career model specific to supporting the competing demands of women in career and family provides an integrated and holistic alternative in combining work/life balance with the principal concerns of authenticity, balance, and challenge at the heart of the model (Miniero & Sullivan, 2005). This newer model provides support for the contextual demands on women as they move through the three career phases throughout their lifetime.

    Women’s Executive Leadership Presence

    The development of leadership presence is critical to establishing oneself in a leadership role, and especially for female leaders. Walking into a meeting and “own the room” so to speak with a grace and style exuding self-confidence, poise and calmness are essential (Moore, 2013). For women leaders obtaining leadership, presence focuses on the abilities to find and strengthen their voices to in a roomful of men, and the engagement of styles in leadership which is authentic and true to their personality. Women’s leadership presence is unique in focusing on these key elements in learning to establish a presence. These include becoming self-confidence, developing self-efficacy, skills of influence and being authentic (Moore, 2013).

    Self-confidence and self-efficacy have been found to be more prevalent in men than in women, and a global executives study found that eighty-six percent of men in leadership roles were confident they would reach the top pinnacle of their organizations versus only sixty-nine percent of women leaders were self-confident of reaching the same career achievement (Devillard, Sanier-Sultan, & Werner, 2014). The dialogue and conversation to change the gender dynamics and eliminate the gendered organizational structures that perpetuate this problem and o focus on creating organizational systems that provide access to leadership roles for women.

    Gender stereotypes define leadership attributes as male characteristics with men overestimating their intelligence and qualifications to apply for a position while women underestimated their intellectual capacities and internalized themselves as not being good enough to apply for positions even when they meet all of the requirements (Kay & Shipman, 2014). The Imposter Syndrome is a result of this belief system with women suffering a higher degree of this phenomenon than men due to gender role socialization (Clance & Imes, 1978; de Vries, 2009).

    Bandura defines self-efficacy as the “…belief in one’s agentive capabilities that one can produce given levels of attainment.” (Bandura, 1997, p. 382). Leadership, on the whole, requires self-efficacy in creating action steps in meeting organizational objectives and goals. Women tend to rate themselves lower in self-efficacy in comparison with men. The educational qualifications, work experience, and professional credibility contribute to self-efficacy in working together with self-confidence in developing executive leadership presence.

    Integrating influence for female leaders is a crucial component to leadership development due to the “double-bind” challenge that women face in the organizational structure. The analysis of gender role theory of men and women in traditional roles of behavior demonstrated the negative consequences for women in displaying a masculine, assertive, and direct approach while using influence, thereby perceived as being less likable (Eagly, 1987). Overall, women use a non-direct approach to influence using charm and compliments,  while men use logic and a punishment and rewards system with men attempting to use influencing tactics more often than women (Dubrin,199; Instone, Major, Bunker, 1983). Gender role behaviors strongly determine the influence negative or positive outcomes of how women are observed by men and women.

    Ruderman and Ohlott (2002) defined authenticity as “feeling that daily actions are in concert with deeply held values and beliefs” being one of five themes for ambitious women leaders in establishing their personal and professional careers (2002, p. 17). The holistic integration of female leadership vision is an integral factor in determining whether they are congruent in their personal and professional selves in living an abundant and meaningful life in their organizations or just simply going through the motions (Hopkins, O’Neil, Passarelli, & Bilimoria, 2008). Authenticity is intensely evaluated during these phases in female leaders when remembering goals and dreams that have not been accomplished. In addition,  when a major life event creates a change in context with competing values causing internal conflict. Specifically when a female leader is breaking into a male-dominated organizational structure with gender bias and norms in place (Hopkins, O’Neil, Passareli, & Bilimoria, 2008).

    Women’s gendered roles rely on collaboration, connection, communication, and compassion which are in opposition to men’s traditional gendered style of leadership in being authoritative and autocratic social construct in our organizations creating an internal conflict in women leaders in creating an authentic style of leadership in their organizations (Eagly & Carli, 2007). Therefore, due to the conflict of female gender roles in society and the emphasis on masculine stereotype gender roles in organizations, the executive leadership development for women leaders is most definitely more challenging dynamic in organizational contexts.

    Transformational Leadership Theory

    Burns has pioneered and influenced leadership research with the introduction of Transformational Leadership Theory (Sashkin & Rosenback, 1993. p. 88).  “The genius of leadership lies in the manner in which leaders see and act on their own and their followers’ values and motivations” (Burns, 1978, p. 19). This leadership style embarks in a leader-follower dance whereby the leader motivates the follower to abide by their internal set of morals and values raising the ethical and moral level to a higher set of standards (Burns, 1978).  According to Burns (1978), Transformational Leadership happens “when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality” (p.6).

    Bass (1981) expanded upon Burns leadership theory research developing a new paradigm stating that the transformational leader not only more efficient than a transactional leader but is also accountable for communicating a shared vision of the future to followers (Bass, 1990). Bass’ research studies on the implications of gender and leadership state that “no consistently clear pattern or differences can be discerned in the supervisory style of the female as compared to male leaders” (Bass, 1981, p.499). Unfortunately, even though women comprise of fifty-one percent of the workforce in America, the majority are still confined at the start level of management positions (Bass, 1990).

    Transformational Leadership Theory provides new insights in developing a new paradigm of excellence in modern leadership for our global organizations. “Leadership is necessary to help organizations develop a new vision of that they can be, then mobilize the organization to change toward the new vision” (Nennis & Nanus, 1985, p. 12). Our ever-changing, interconnected and technologically advanced world requires a new perspective of leadership which can readily adapt and manage groups of people in aligning with organizational goals (Bennis & Nanus, 1985). Transformational leaders are role models and change agents who attain followers to come on board with the integration change process, establishing a sense of pride in their contribution to work, engage in a positive influence, and  inspire a vision of the organization (Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Zhu, Sosik, Riggio, Baiyin, 2012).

    Women’s leadership style encompasses the Transformational Leadership Theory in being creative and open, building connection and trust, working collectively on teams, and raising their followers to their highest potential of success Eagly, 2007; Wren, 1995, p.101). These leaders provide a vision for the organization and demonstrate four areas of leadership competency in charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and individual consideration (Zhu, Sosik, Riggio, Baiyin, 2012). Transformational leadership creates an environment of inclusion and respect for their followers inviting them to participate in outside the box thinking with innovation of ideas in a safe and trusted environment (Zhu, Sosik, Riggio, Baiyin, 2012).

    Transformational leadership provides a platform of empowering the followers highest potential by increasing their self-esteem, adding value to the organization, self-worth to the team by implementing leadership development programs which provide employees with the knowledge, skills, abilities and experience required to have an identity to the organization (Zhu, Sosik, Riggio, Baiyin, 2012; Wren, 1995).  Transformational leaders are indeed visionairies who articulate a brilliant vision of the organization in displaying an amazing energy and spirit in the followers themselves creating in them a belief in a purpose and value of the follower in meeting the objectives and goals of the organization (Zhu, Sosik, Riggio, Baiyin, 2012).

    Proposal for New Leadership Paradigm

    In addressing the female leadership gap for the future growth, sustainability, and stability of organizations the phenomenon of implicit bias, gender stereotyping, and invisible barriers in shattering the glass ceiling in Fortune 1000 companies. The empowerment of women of being identified, qualified and developed into the corporate pipeline and securing executive leadership positions leads to higher individual and organizational performance. Organizations can implement this information into Human Resources and Learning and Development Departments to utilize the high-potential talent of women within their organizations.

    Therefore, a proposed Executive Women’s Leadership Development Program in conjunction with Executive Women’s Leadership Coaching for developing high-potential female leaders in organizations. The women’s leadership development foundation upon research studies of women’s learning and development with an applied practical approach focused self-confidence, self-efficacy, authenticity, and influence (O’Neil, Hopkins & Bilimoria, 2015). In combination with female executive leadership coaching providing the “support mechanism” (Vinnicombe & Singh, 2003, p. 298) in their core purpose and values. Thereby, being authentic in the leadership style and being a change agent in obtaining the clarity in the achievement of their professional career goals (Boyatzis, 2006; Kilburg, 1996).

    The reality that executive coaching is a relatively new profession in the corporate industry, therefore, there have been limited empirical studies conducted.  In the “Executive Coaching: A Conceptual Framework From an Integrative Review of Practice and Research.”  (Joo 2005, p. 467) delivers historical definitions and purposes of Executive Coaching. The first definition begins with Kilburg (1996, p. 142) ”Executive coaching is a helping relationship formed between a client who has managerial authority and responsibility in an organization and a consultant who uses a wide variety of behavior techniques and methods to assist the client to achieve a mutually identified set of goals, to improve his or her professional performance and personal satisfaction, client’s organization within a formally defined coaching agreement.”

    The International Coaching Federation ICF, a global, non-profit entity, provides this new profession with a coaching definition, ethical code standards, an accreditation process, and a certification program. “Professional Coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, business or organizations. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life.” (Joo, 2005, p.467)

    The benefits provided to organizations that invest in the development of potential leaders is indeed impressive. The findings of the study conducted by Metrix Global, LLC at Booz Allen confirm that the executive coaching and leadership development programs provided 700% return on their investment (Parker-Williams, 2006). Overall, several research studies conducted by Olivero, Bane, Kopelman (1997) and Thach (2002) provide empirical research for the effectiveness of executive coaching and leadership development programs.

    Women’s Executive Leadership Development Programs and Female Executive Coaching provide positive impacts on female executive individual and organizational performance. According to Bierema (2002), the feminist researcher, “To summarize, the purpose of feminist research is to challenge the traditional assumptions and practices of research inquiry, to affirm women’s value and contributions of women (not in comparison to men), to examine asymmetrical power relationships that marginalize and oppress women, to recognize gender as an essential category of analysis, to create awareness of how language renders women invisible and unspoken issues perpetuate oppression, and finally, to advocate social action and change”. (p. 254).

    In essence, organizations which have a culture of organizational support and an infrastructure system in place in executing Women’s Executive Leadership Development and Female Executive Coaching for high-potential female leaders in navigating the corporate pipeline for leadership roles benefit in increased individual and organizational performance (Feldman, Lankau, 2005). These similar findings echoed in the American Management Association (AMA, 2008) Institute for Corporate Productivity and the Sherpa Executive Coaching Survey (2008). Female leaders today are ambitious, well-educated, have industry experience and desire opportunities to advance professionally in their career trajectories. These research studies provide empirical evidence for the positive result of providing Women’s Executive Leadership Development Programs and Female Executive Leadership Coaching.

    Catalyst (2005) is aware of the red-flags that are looming and has warned organizations of the impending leadership crises of the near future. “Since leadership talent is critical and scarce, organizations cannot afford to underutilize any segment of the talent pool” (Catalst, 2005, p.1). The strategy of identifying executive leadership roles is imperative for the growth and survival of corporations worldwide. The incredible talent pool available to female leaders to organizations remains as a large underdeveloped and underutilized source of human capital contributing to the gender diversity of the workforce.

    Organizations are in danger of economic suicide by ignoring female leaders in their quest for new leadership talent, predominantly since women have an enormous amount of economic, financial power in earned income and consumer spending of almost two trillion dollars (Catalyst, 2004). It is imperative that organizations create awareness of implicit bias and gender diversity by identifying, developing and promoting female leaders in their internal structures. In doing so, the diverse female perspective on the innovation of new consumer products and services which will benefit organizations in substantially increasing their sustainability and revenue (Katz & Miller, 1996).

    Women’s Executive Leadership Development Program & Executive Leadership Coaching

    Curriculum Program Overview

    The Executive Women’s Leadership Development Program and the Women’s Executive Leadership Coaching is an intensive combination of experiential learning and strategies providing a solid foundation in empowering women in creating an authentic leadership style and transformational change in their professional careers. The program addresses the gender dynamic leadership gaps in female leadership development in organizations and the strategies in for women to obtain self-awareness and mindfulness in their leadership. In strengthening the power of your voice and self-confidence in building successful competencies in leadership roles.

    An overview of research on gender bias in the workplace and effective strategies for the minimizing the impact of these biases. The awareness and development of leadership skills including the knowledge of the feminine-masculine issues affecting women leaders in navigating the workplace. This model provides growth and understanding in the development of creating female business strategies for high potential and talented executive women in the corporate pipeline for organizations.

    The design is based on research studies, evidence-based learning and applied knowledge for women’s empowerment in creating transformational change in obtaining leadership roles, and managing teams. The program focuses on exemplary female leadership addressing challenging issues that impact women in positions of leadership including authority, power, influence, negotiations, social networks, leadership style, leading teams, and risk taking.

    Women today face demanding leadership challenges in creating an inspiring executive leadership presence, developing self-confidence, overcoming implicit bias and obstacles, engagement and motivation, and professional career development. The emerging innovative strategies, emotional intelligence, personal leadership style and individual coaching creates a design for the achievement of their professional career ambitions and the contribution of women to the overall success of organizations.

    Women in leadership roles obtain higher performance, collaborative team building, decision-making and strategy, organizational group dynamics,  and life-work balance. Establishing a foundation of trust, mutual respect, and collaboration with female executives and their respective organizations in designing a professional career strategy, an action plan, providing valuable feedback and insight for conscious development and learning. Overall, providing an Integral and holistic approach on the female leadership journey providing growth and transformation on the path of women’s leadership.  In shattering the “Glass Ceiling” and ascending the corporate ladder women leaders promote the advancement of their professional careers, the successful outcomes of organizations, entrepreneurs, and women business owners.

    Women’s Executive Leadership Development Program Model

    The following are key factors integrated into the model in learning and development of women executives in organizations. These issues address the gender bias and stereotypes embedded in organizational structures and the challenging contexts that female leaders face; the work/life balance and integration between professional careers and family obligations; and professional career ambitions and competing life/stage concerns for women leaders. Strong female leadership presence includes developing a strength of voice, an authentic leadership style, a solid self-confidence, strong self-efficacy, and empowering belief in one’s ability to navigate their personal life and professional career.

    The combination of empirical research studies, experiential learning experiences, and the deep assessments of The Leadership Circle Profile 360 and the MBTI Myers & Briggs Personality Type Step 1 & Step 11 provide constructive feedback to individual female leaders in maximizing their strengths and talents according to an Authentic Leadership style, while developing knowledge and insight into the 360’ assessment of the creative and reactive circle impacting their leadership performance. The daily culmination of the program ends with closing circles of debriefing and self-reflection for learning and growth. The last module of the program has an individual action plan in creating a Leadership Strategy Plan and Vision.

    Women’s Executive Leadership Program


    Day OneDay TwoDay ThreeDay Four
    8:30 – 9:00 am


    9:00 – 10:15 amFireside Chat

    Feminine Leadership



    Navigating Gender Bias in the WorkplaceBuilding & Managing Your Brand


    Social Networking
    10:15 – 10:30 amBreakBreakBreakBreak
    10:30 – 12:00 pm



    Authenticity In  Leadership



    Women’s Empowerment


    Executive Presence

    For Women

    Integrating Work/Life Balance
    12:00  – 1:30 pmLunchLunchLunchLunch
    1:30 – 3:15 pmConscious Leadership  Leading Change




    MBTI Myers & Briggs Personality TypeThe Leadership 360’ Profile TLCPBold Negotiations

    & Emotional Intelligence

    3:15 – 3:30 pmBreakBreak


    3:30 – 5:00 pmMindfulness Meditation, Breath & Yoga


    Identify Your Voice As A Female LeaderArt of Self-Confidence, Influence, and PowerLeadership Strategy Plan & Vision


    5:00 – 5:30 pmDebrief & Reflection


    Debrief & Reflection


    Debrief & Reflection


    Closing Circle




    Women’s Executive Leadership Development and Executive Women’s Leadership Coaching Curriculum  and Learning Objectives

    • Gender Bias and Stereotypes
    • Women’s Empowerment
    • Establishing a Strong Sense of Self
    • Identify Your Voice as a Female Leader
    • Authentic Leadership
    • Building Alliances and Social Networking
    • Owning Your Power
    • Art of Self-Confidence and Self- Esteem
    • Individual Leadership Style
    • Emotional Intelligence EQ
    • Creating Value and Branding
    • Bold Negotiations
    • Conscious Leadership and Leading Change
    • Influence and Power
    • The Leadership Circle 360’ Profile TLCP
    • Executive Presence for Women Leaders
    • Communication and Art of Persuasion
    • Myers & Briggs Personality Type MBTI
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Mindfulness, Meditation, Breath and Yoga
    • Navigating Gender Bias and Stereotype
    • Life/Work Balance
    • Leadership Strategy Plan and Vision
    • Women’s Leadership in the 21st Century
    • Purpose, Strategy and Vision Plan

    Executive Women’s Leadership Coaching Package

    • Individual Leadership Coaching Programs designed for three, six, nine and twelve months of learning and development in professional career support and executive women’s leadership development in addressing issues in leading organizations.
    • The design of a Women’s Executive Leadership Development Program in coaching high-potential women and female managers in achieving higher leadership, authority and influence in their respective organizations and businesses. These professional career goal foundations based on the objectives established in the initial coaching consultation. This coaching program is available for Female Leadership in Emerging, Mid-Level, Senior-Level, Executive, Entrepreneur and Business Owner.
    • Individual packages consist of the following for Individuals: Two coaching one-on-one executive coaching sessions per month by phone or Skype, email, and phone support provided an individually designed program for your highest leadership development.
    • Clients will obtain gender-specific women’s coaching addressing the challenges women face in shattering the “glass ceiling” in the achievement of professional career goals. Establishing a learning outcome of their leadership roles, belief systems, blockages, strengths and weakness in their leadership development in organizations.

    Women’s Executive Leadership Assessments

    • Myers & Briggs MBTI Step I & Step II
    • The Leadership Circle 360’ Profile TCLP
    • The Leadership Circle Profile Managers Edition 360
    • DISC Behaviors & Motivators I Fundamentals Interpersonal Relations Orientation-Behavior FIRO-B
    • FIRO Business Leadership Report  I  FIRO Business Profile
    • Strong’s Interest Inventory  I  Workplace Big Five

    Individual assessments and personalized reports are provided for Executive Women’s Leadership Development and Executive Coaching to create understanding and constructive feedback of leadership strengths and weaknesses. The analysis of the creative and reactive responses in a 360 profile in diagnosing current leadership skills in providing insight and strategy for the achievement of professional goals in the development of the highest leadership capacity.

    Women’s Executive Leadership Development Activates

    The following activities are in the model and implemented throughout the program:

    Values Sort Cards, Leader & Follower Dance, Vision Board of Goals, MBTI Individual Personality Styles, Creative and Reactive Section of Leadership Circle 360’, Round-Table Discussions, Empower Exercises, Individual Exercises, Group Breakout Sessions, Self-Reflection Writing, Feedback from Executive Leadership Coaching, and Strategy Vision Plan.

    Source: Zenger Folkman Inc., 2011

    Source: Zenger Folkman Inc., 2011

    • Women’s Leadership Presence
    • Self-Confidence & Self-Efficacy
    • Influence Authenticity
    • Work-Life Integration
    • Challenging
    • Contexts
    • Life/Career
    • Stages

    Source: Framework for Women’s Leadership Development O’Neil, Hopkins, Bilimoria (2015)

    Table 1.

    • Framework for Women’s Leadership Development—Focal Areas for Coaching and Sample Coaching Questions.
    • Key factors affecting women’s leadership development
    • Key characteristics of women’s leadership presence
    • Self-confidence and Self-efficacy—Focal Areas: accomplishments, achievements, knowledge, skills, abilities, outcome measures
    • Influence—Focal Areas: social capital, networks and mentors, organizational awareness, relationship management
    • Authenticity—Focal Areas:aspirations, values, leadership style, integration
    • Challenging Contexts Focal Areas: organizational — culture, organizational politics, leadership values/philosophy, leadership vision
    • Describe a time when you felt self-confident and in control during a difficult encounter.
    • What characterizes the culture of your immediate work unit and/or your organization’s senior executive team?
    • Which parts of these cultures are energizing to you?
    • Which are less energizing to you?
    • What political choices and consequences do you foresee in your leadership advancement?
    • What would best enable you to navigate any challenges?
    • What support and information networks could you develop within and outside your organization?
    • Who in your organization do you think has the best understanding of how work really gets done?
    • What can you learn from her or him?
    • What networks do you need to develop to help you navigate your current organizational system?
    • What values and behaviors characterize you in extremely tough situations?
    • How do you best deal with adversity?
    • What are nonnegotiables for you?
    • How do you best communicate them to your manager, peers, and direct reports?
    • Work–Life Integration – Focal Areas: professional roles, personal roles, short- and long-term goals, obstacles/barriers
    • When have you felt most confident about your capacities to manage multiple life and career responsibilities?
    • What is your ideal role in the organization going forward?
    • What is your ideal role in your home/community life going forward?
    • What are some ways in which you effectively integrate or balance your career and life?
    • What would make you more influential as a leader at work given your current life responsibilities?
    • What support/resources do you need to make you more effective at home given your current work responsibilities?
    • What are some obstacles you have faced in balancing work and life and what sources of support would be most helpful going forward?
    • What is most energizing to you about developing yourself as a person and as a professional?
    • How can you bring your whole self to what you do both professionally and personally?
    • Describe a time when you felt most fulfilled in your work; in your life.
    • Life/Career Stages – Focal Areas: role models, contributions, career/life goals, interests/passions
    • Who at your current life/career stage do you admire and why do they inspire you?
    • What are some steps you can take to embody more of these characteristics?
    • What would make you more effective as a leader in your current life/career stage?
    • How can you identify a mentor to help you increase your knowledge and expand your network at this stage of your career?
    • How can you use your years of experience to further develop your influence?
    • What are your signature strengths as a leader at this life/career stage?
    • At this stage of your career, what makes you feel the most energized and inspired?
    • What would you most like to spend your time doing?

    Source: Framework for Women’s Leadership Development Focal Areas for Coaching and Sample Coaching Questions (O’Neil, Hopkins, Bilimoria, 2015).


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