Who’s Next?

Karenann Terrell, CIO at Wal-mart announced her transition last week. Another C-suite African-American women is leaving a position so few hold. I wrote about Ursula Burns departure  last week addressing this very issue.  Now, the question is “Who’s Next?”  This question is not about who’s next to leave the already shortage of women leaders at the top; but more so – Who’s next in line? Who is the next person in organizations like Xerox, Walmart or yours, that has been or is being groomed for the next level?


Many companies will at least put forth a good faith effort in succession and talent planning. A large number even championing women for higher level leadership roles. We’ve seen a raise in women’s affinity groups, mentoring programs, conferences, and special initiatives focused on developing and growing talent. You can find companies who are doing it well on lists such as the 100 Best Companies for Women’s Leadership Development and the 100 Best Workplaces for Women.


However, the real pressing question here is “What are the outcomes of these programs?”  Certainly recognition is due to any organization making an effort.  Nevertheless, at the end of the day, if the current leadership team still looks the same, what is the real impact?  Determining what changes regarding the execution or rigor of said programs will define a company’s true commitment to making real, visible and sustainable changes.


The 100 Best Companies for Women’s Leadership Development report shows the promotion of women in companies such as AT&T (34%) and American Express (43%) to manager and above. The appearance of due diligence as it relates to higher levels of leadership for women in the workplace is not enough. Reality and results matters.  


As an executive during my corporate years, I recall being the “only one” in the room or invited to the table. This is commonly the case for many women at that level. Many stand qualified and ready to add their voice, value and vision to these conversations. Often company culture, direction and leadership are being discussed without full representation of the organization’s or customers demographics. But for reasons, never clear to me, only a small percentage, even in 2017 are extended an invitation to be a part of these larger conversations.


There is a chasm between having qualified women leaders, particularly women of color, in the pipeline and promoting them to executive level.  This is evident when (1) we can count the number of such leaders operating in those roles, and (2) when one leaves, it becomes national news. Until we deal with the unspoken attitudes, agenda and apathy within organizations, we will continue to prepare women for roles they’ll never get.   


If you are not sure where to start, start by asking questions. Start by ensuring the right conversations are being had within your organization. Or start by bringing in the right support you need.  One of the leadership engagement’s we offer is The Leadership Experience for Women.  The Leadership Experience For Women is a customized experience designed to accelerate the readiness of women leaders. It’s a great learning engagement to bring to your organization for Women’s History Month or anytime throughout the year.  This experience focuses not only on the development of the most common leadership competencies, but also your organization’s values and core competencies as well. The Experience is offered in several formats to meet your needs. Contact us @ hello@courageouslifeacademy.com.


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