Insights from:
300 Women Leaders
5 Women’s Leadership Innovation Labs
3 Continents
1 Diverse World

Across the globe, there is increasing awareness that women leaders are critical for organizational success. According to Catalyst, a leading women’s research and development organization, Fortune 500 companies with the highest percentage of women on their boards of directors outperformed those with the lowest by 53% of return on equity, 42% of return on sales, and 66% of return on invested capital.1

However, women are still under-represented in senior positions. Moreover, talented women seem to “leak” from the pipeline. Another Catalyst study shows that, while women consist of 45% of total employees in S&P companies, they occupy only 21% of the board seats.2 Another study even reports that fewer S&P 1500 firms are run by women than by men named John!3

Women in S&P 500 Companies

A Call to Action

Ready to R.I.S.E.: The Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) is committed to advancing women’s and girls’ leadership development. For over 30 years, CCL has been researching women leaders, producing groundbreaking books such as Breaking the Glass Ceiling, Standing at the Crossroads, and Kick Some Glass (due out in October 2018). We have developed thousands of women through our high impact women’s leadership development programs, including the public Women’s Leadership Experience and many custom-designed programs.

Around the world, we are working with girls from kindergarten through college, helping them to realize the immense leadership capability they hold. In 2017, we undertook a series of Women’s Leadership Innovation Labs (The WLI Lab®) is intended to bring together men and women who share the same passion to brainstorm innovative solutions to today’s challenges. Specifically, The Lab involved attendees in four topics (i.e., R.I.S.E.) that have been identified based on CCL’s learning and experience:

Reinventing what it means to be a leader, by asking “How do we change the definition of leadership so that women aren’t constrained by male definitions?”

Initiating partnerships and conversations, by exploring the headlines we’ll see in five years if women have strong networks

Supporting women and girls by providing spaces to learn to lead, by creating and designing such spaces for women and/or girls.

Engaging and educating others about their role in creating the environment that liberates leadership potential in women and girls, by examining what men, governments, organizations, and the media can do to champion women’s and girls’ leadership.

The Lab was designed by CCL to collect innovative ideas to help women “RISE.”  Both men and women were welcomed to The Lab to share opinions and exchange ideas. Gender balance of attendees varied by session.  Based on the experience of six labs in six cities across two continents, we found The Lab effective in

  • raising the awareness of women leadership issues
  • creating a network opportunity for men and women leaders
  • helping organizations hear from women and better understand their needs
  • informing the design of other women leadership initiatives

The contents of this report can and should be used by individuals, organizations, and policymakers to consider and act upon relevant and meaningful recommendations to address the many challenges that stand in the way of girls and women filling the leadership pipeline in parity with men.

Published: April 2018
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