Cultivating Habits Close the Gender Leadership Gap (Forbes Interview)

Sheila headshot

Thank you to Forbes for this interview and article. – Sheila

It has long been recognized that female leaders are being underrepresented and left behind in STEM and S&P 500 companies. Historically, the move towards closing opportunity gaps at work took a gender agnostic approach with marginal results. Today, businesses are addressing the issues that hold women back and tailoring leadership development specifically towards women.

At the same time, there is a growing consensus that habits are a powerful success tool. Habits are how leaders strategize, execute and influence, as well as build and leverage relationships. As habits receive more attention and respect as a much-needed learning intervention in women’s leadership development, there is a growing demand to shift from leadership programs that focus on strategies to programs that focus on habits.

Forbes Coaches Council member Sheila Goldgrab is an executive coach and the founder of Goldgrab Leadership, a boutique leadership firm through which she leads Women Leaders Habit Labs, an online experience offering women the opportunity to learn what gets in their way and form new habits to scale their leadership and get the recognition they deserve.

As an award-winning executive coach, published author and speaker on how women leaders can authentically gain recognition and fulfill their potential, Goldgrab works with women and men in top technology companies and STEM disciplines across the globe. She said women become increasingly scarce moving up the leadership ranks of S&P companies, creating a “thinning pyramid” effect. “With Habit Lab, the pinch points of the pipeline get unstuck directly because of the habits leaders put into action.”
This is because Goldgrab tailors her approach with a gendered lens. “When executive coaches share their habit journeys and the framework they use with their clients, they foster the abilities of others with long-lasting benefits,” she said. Helping women advance up the leadership pyramid means understanding the value of habits that are specifically effective for women.

For leaders looking to learn more about how and why to focus on habit formation, Goldgrab recommends reading James Clear’s best-seller Atomic Habits and Charles Duhigg’s classic The Power of Habit. To gain specific insights about women in leadership, she recommends How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith.

Goldgrab said diversity and inclusive goals are more important than ever when it comes to achieving gender balance at the top of the leadership pyramid. This is because, in order for women to advance in the workplace, they must feel able to be fully themselves. According to research from Catalyst, employees experience inclusion at work when they feel valued, trusted, authentic and psychologically safe. Experiences of inclusion explain 49% of team problem-solving and 18% of employee innovation.

Goldgrab believes one of the biggest mistakes leaders make is continuing to do what worked before, only doing more of it and faster. “But doing that isn’t going to advance their career,” she said. “To enable change to happen, we need new habits. When leaders learn how to sustain a habit they value, their actions become consistent with their career ambitions.”

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