Women in STEM+ leave managers who lack leadership skills, which means investing in a good leadership development program can impact attrition rates. 

Why STEM+ Companies Must Invest in Leadership Skills 

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Leadership development programs tailored to the unique challenges faced by companies in STEM+ can help counter gender-based attrition. That’s because education and leadership skills empower managers at all levels to create the work environment women need before it’s too late. 

At every stage of a woman’s STEM+ career, there’s a risk of attrition caused by obstacles like gender bias (even if unintentional) or unequal promotion opportunities. As STEM+ women encounter these hurdles, almost half of them decide to leave their jobs. Collectively, these choices result in a massive talent loss and financial losses in the billions in U.S companies alone.  

The unspoken reality is that women in STEM+ are forced to divert precious time and energy from advancing their careers to navigating hurdles and biases. This continuous issue results in a growing frustration that often leads to a decision to quit.  

This troubling trend, often called the “Leaky Pipeline,” threatens the progress of gender diversity in the field. The loss of women at various stages of their careers reduces the overall STEM+ workforce, makes companies lose high-performing employees, and diminishes the pool of potential future leaders.

How The Leaky Pipeline Impacts Business

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Companies find themselves in a complex and challenging position. Many of the attrition issues and workplace challenges arise from management practices at lower and middle levels. This situation is even more intricate because many problems go unnoticed or unaddressed by the companies experiencing them.

The paradox is that many newly appointed managers (and sometimes experienced leaders) often do not get the necessary training required or hesitate to admit they need support in developing leadership skills. Even worse, managers may know they need help, but executive leaders don’t see the gap in leadership competencies or that it impacts the entire organization in such a dramatic way.

Managers find themselves in a perpetual juggling act between the demands to perform, achieve results, execute strategic priorities, and foster the growth of their teams. These responsibilities and a fear of appearing unprepared often prevent them from seeking help directly. Thus, organizations remain unaware of the managerial challenges fueling attrition.

It creates a detrimental cycle — challenges persist over the years, impacting employee retention, stifling innovation, and diminishing ROI. It underscores the critical need to acknowledge the pivotal role that leadership development programs play in equipping managers to lead high-performing teams.

For real change, a broader shift is imperative – one where companies embrace a mission that values leadership acumen and proactive management across all organizational tiers. This mission transcends the confines of conventional, classroom-style basic training for managers, advocating for a personalized approach that recognizes the unique challenges faced by each managerial role.

The Risk of Compounding the Gender Gap

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The Leaky Pipeline has a compounding effect beyond mere numbers and business implications. It squanders human potential with far-reaching social consequences. Many innovative ideas, unique perspectives, and problem-solving skills go untapped when talented and capable women are systematically pushed to leave STEM+ fields. 

The impact grows exponentially, reducing gender diversity in senior positions in the long run. Fewer women can reach leadership positions, creating fewer opportunities to shape organizational culture and drive gender-inclusive policies. This scarcity of women business leaders will perpetuate a detrimental and vicious cycle. Ultimately consequences are fewer internal mentors available, hence fewer mentorship programs, less focus and lower annual budgets to address diversity and inclusion, and a lower overall interest in closing the gender gap. 

As fewer women make it to leadership roles, the industry will likely deter even more young girls from choosing a career in STEM+ fields in the first place, impacting new talent development and deepening underrepresentation for years to come.

The Silver Lining: Proactive Leadership Development Efforts   

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The urgency for change is evident. Up to 70% of HR leaders acknowledge that their companies could improve by creating a workplace where everyone is equally appreciated. In STEM+ companies, achieving this goal requires levelling up the management game. 

Low- and mid-level managers are at the heart of this transformation as the primary advocates for cultivating a culture of respect, equality, and inclusivity. Recognizing their key role, it’s time STEM+ organizations invest significantly in the education of their managers. This investment should extend beyond routine professional development and address every upskilling opportunity from an inclusive perspective. For example, if a manager is going to learn how to delegate, they need to understand skills and style differences among the team and delegate in a way that produces outcomes including the equitable development of team members. If a manager needs to upskill on how to lead innovation, they need to understand how to get full participation from a diverse team.  

STEM+ fields need leadership development programs focused on upskilling, coaching, and mentoring to help managers develop leadership abilities and the necessary skills to counter gender-based attrition. Managers learn to build inclusive environments that retain talent and contribute to the broader vision of equality and diversity. Such concerted efforts consolidate respect, equality, and inclusivity as core values, reshaping the future of work in STEM+ industries.

Leadership Development Programs Can Revolutionize STEM+ Industries

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Imagine this: a leadership development program that builds a pipeline of leaders with problem-solving abilities, innovation, leadership, communication skills, and a solid ethical compass. Brilliant STEM+ professionals get the necessary leadership skills as soon as they’re promoted to smooth the transition to management and improve productivity.  

These programs must delve into the intricacies of gender bias and the lack of representation that often slows women’s progress in STEM+ fields. This creates a supportive ecosystem where every team member can flourish without facing unnecessary obstacles. 

Why is investing in leadership development a sound business decision? Team members who feel valued and supported are more likely to be productive, innovative, and committed to the company’s success. This, in turn, positively impacts overall organizational performance, efficiency, and, ultimately, the bottom line. 

That’s because employee engagement is intricately tied to the effectiveness of managers, constituting a substantial 70% of the variance in this vital aspect of organizational dynamics. Investing in the upskilling of managers becomes a strategic imperative for businesses aiming to cultivate a workplace culture that respects and supports women. 

Strategies for Leadership Development in STEM+ 

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Leadership development is a good investment that goes way beyond compliance with DEI guidelines to make a real change. 

An effective leadership development program in STEM+ starts with targeted upskilling and personalized coaching for those stepping into leadership roles based on specific goals and needs at a specific point in time. Recognizing the unique challenges of being a newly promoted manager and providing tailored leadership upskilling ensures program participants have the skills needed for success from day one. 

Besides empowering new managers, companies also need mentoring programs for managers across all levels. Internal mentors who can help managers navigate the specific organization, coupled with external 3rd party coaches can accelerate the learning needed.  

The best programs create structured opportunities for managers to receive guidance in a safe space from seasoned STEM+ leaders who have been in their shoes and learned to handle specific issues from a similar leadership position. 

What do the best leadership development programs have in common? 

  • A personalized learning process 
  • Effective leaders acting as coaches and mentors 
  • Content focused on developing critical skills for every leadership role and personalized and targeted to increase the relevancy for each manager  
  • Immersive learning opportunities, actionable advice, and real-life examples 
  • Tools to track progress and calculate leadership development ROI 

Final Thoughts

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Leadership means creating conditions to retain top talent and encourage a dynamic and innovative workplace. It creates a pipeline of great leaders with hard and soft skills that lead to innovation, productivity, and profitability. And with this change in organizational culture, women in STEM+ don’t feel forced to quit anymore. 

But meeting these goals doesn’t just happen. Good leadership skills are something to be learned, so companies must be proactive about growing leaders to fill crucial leadership roles and support these changes. And Gotara can help with it. Our leadership development program addresses STEM+ realities with a customized approach to upskilling, coaching, and mentoring to help managers develop a leadership style that encourages all team members to innovate and grow and that produces results starting in eight weeks. 

Let us help you build leadership development programs at scale so your managers can enhance their leadership skills and create more inclusive environments.