A recommendation framework on how to apply coaching during a crisis to support women in organizations.
1.1 Background & Overview
It has been established that more women have greater control over their life choices than ever before. They are increasingly being supported by the global society, specifically concerning their education. Nevertheless, such autonomy and support are the least when it comes to their career choices and advancements (In, 2017). Despite the increase in women’s presence in the workforce, they are still extremely underrepresented in managerial positions both in the private and public sectors (Misic-Andric, 2015).
The figure below illustrates the proportion of women in managerial positions as of 2019. According to the United Nations (2020), women represented 28% of managerial positions globally with a minor increase since 2000. As seen, Latin America and the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand, and Europe and Northern America have the highest proportions of 39%, 38.06% and 37.75% respectively (United Nations, 2020). Yet, it is apparent that these proportions are extremely low as compared to the percentages of their men counterparts.
Figure: Proportion of women in managerial positions across the globe in 2019. Source (United Nations, 2020).
It could also be observed that undeveloped countries, represented by Central and South Asia and Northern Africa and Western Area exhibit significantly lower percentages of 13.23% and 11.75% respectively (United Nations, 2020); thus, raising doubts with regards to the relative relationship between women’s proportions in managerial positions and the support tools offered in all countries to aid women throughout their career development path.
The necessity of empowering and supporting women with the appropriate tools to further their careers has been recognised for several decades. Empowerment is defined as “the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes” (In, 2017, p.1). World leaders, experts and scholars have been exerting massive amounts of effort to reveal and promote the critical endeavour of empowering women (In, 2017). Quotes like “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women” by Barack Obama, former US president, and “Empowering women is key to building a future we want” by Kofi Annan, former US secretary-general, are being overheard in recent years (In, 2017).
Women entrepreneurs contribute to the socio-economic development of a country (Goswami, 2019) as their involvement in higher positions is associated with superior corporate profitability (United Nations, 2020). Nevertheless, women entrepreneurs are scarce and the rate at which women penetrate high ranking positions as leaders have not improved much since two decades ago; thus, proofing that the increase in advocacy for gender equality and women empowerment has not been fruitful with regards to women’s career developments and achievements (Misic-Andric, 2015; Flynn, Holt and Faison, 2017; Gray, De Haan and Bonneywell, 2019). As seen in the figure below, the maximum increase in the proportion of women in managerial positions from the year 2000 up to 2019 is less than 10% in the most developed countries of the world, while it is almost stagnant or has a very low increase rate in other undeveloped regions (United Nations, 2020).
Figure: Proportion of women in managerial positions across the globe from 2000 to 2019. Source (United Nations, 2020).
The issue becomes more apparent in higher decision-making positions as according to the surveyed organisations by the UN, women in top executive positions only accounted for 31% with only 18% of organisations having women CEOs in 2018 (United Nations, 2020). Furthermore, the chances of women’s career development decrease with the increase in the corporate size. It was evidenced by the same survey that out of all organisations with female CEOs, 16% were in larger organisations with more than 250 workers as compared to 26% in organisations with less than 100 workers.
Women are faced with multiple challenges that hinder the progress in their respective careers (Goswami, 2019). These challenges include the lack of proper education and access to important information that would enable women to develop managerial skills, their low risk-taking abilities, limited mobility, cultural barriers, family obligations, etc (Goswami, 2019). However, the social and economic development of women is a crucial aspect for the growth and prosperity of nations. This emerges from the fact that women constitute an economic force that is capable of inducing a change; thereby, they should not be neglected by policymakers (Velmurugan, 2015).
Table 1: Factors that affect women’s career development and progression.
Crisis management requires multiple leadership skills. These include situational awareness, creativity and adaptability, effective communication, (Tokel, Ozkan and Dagli, 2017), self-control, planning and forecasting capabilities, risk analysis, and risk mitigation planning (Sapriel, 2003). Research has proven that women exhibit better crisis management capabilities than men. According to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, this is supported by the well-known terminology “glass cliff” which refers to the increased tendency of organisations to hand women leaders the responsibility to save the organisation during a crisis where risks of failure are already high (Zenger and Folkman, 2020).
Nevertheless, women had proved to be qualified enough during harsh and severe conditions. Strong evidence of women’s capabilities in crisis management is witnessed nowadays amid the Covid-19 pandemic, where countries with women leaders have reported lower cases of infections and deaths from the coronavirus (Zenger and Folkman, 2020). This was also the case in the US where the states that are governed by female leaders reported lower fatality rates (Zenger and Folkman, 2020). When it comes to personal crises, Njiru, (2013) proved that women are capable of enduring extremely high levels of stress that arise from the interaction of personal and institutional crises. Thus, women could handle pregnancy, child-care roles, family responsibilities and other personal responsibilities while effectively performing at their work.
Multiple tools could aid women and assist them in their career progression and advancements; these include sponsoring, mentoring programs, leadership training programs, networking events, internships, and coaching (Bhide and Tootell, 2018). As stated by Heath, Flynn, Holt and Faison, (2017), “As women, we still need advice and coaching that is geared specifically for our career needs and experiences. That one thing can make all the difference in our success” (p.2). Therefore, the differential progression of leaders from both sexes should receive considerable attention in the coming years in the human resources and leadership development fields to aid women in excelling and attaining higher status in their careers (Gray, De Haan and Bonneywell, 2019).
Table 2: Perceived benefits of support tools to women.
1.2 Research gap
Strangely enough, it is evident that women empowerment, although done at very low rates and with poor outcomes to date, had focused on economic empowerment, political participation and education. Little research has been conducted in the direction of empowering women towards their career development goals. Therefore, there is a need to consider novel, efficient and effective support tools that would assist women in climbing the career ladder. Also, when it comes to the interventions designed and targeted to women development, little research has been conducted to explore the experiences of women or their perspectives with regards to the different support tool options that could be offered to them; furthermore, to the extent of the researcher’s knowledge, no research has addressed the impacts of certain career development support tools on women’s leadership and crisis management capabilities. In addition, with the advancement in the economic world and technologies, and with the changing pace of life, the challenges faced by women towards their career advancements are affected by different dynamic and rapidly changing factors. Thus, such new factors should be reconsidered and re-evaluated in the context of developing and offering career development support tools.
1.3 Research aims & objectives
Based on the aforementioned argument, this research aims to assess the role of coaching, as a career development tool, in aiding women towards their career advancement in crisis management in an attempt to provide a framework for the application of this tool in different organisations in the future. Thus, the research objectives are as follows.
- To review the literature to determine the different dynamic problems and challenges that are being faced by women in their career progression.
- To identify the support tools and techniques available and offered to women towards their career advancement.
- To assess the role of executive coaching as one of the support tools used to help women in their career advancement.
- To evaluate the efficacy of executive coaching in the development of women’s Crisis management and leadership capabilities.
- To recommend a framework through which executive coaching could be implemented by organisations as a support tool for women.
1.4 Research significance
The research significance emerges from the fact that businesses are at continuous risk of facing changes in their external environment represented in the global economics and social crisis (Misic-Andric, 2015). Thus, noting from the aforementioned discussion that women constitute an economic force that is capable of inducing a change, the framework provided would aid organisations in effectively utilising their women workforce to overcome and manage organisations during periods of increased volatility. Thus, enhancing the organisation’s sustainability, stability and durability.
Also, considering the wide momentum towards democratic economies that depend on the equal participation of both men and women, there is a need to develop a framework through which women could be empowered to be capable of contributing to the economy. The focus on executive coaching as a support tool will aid societies in eradicating the concept that women are merely consumers through the development of successful women entrepreneurs who could equivalently compete in the market.
Besides reinforcing human rights and gender equality, the research would also encourage the inclusion of more women in diversified positions leading to enhanced performance and higher productivity and profitability rates, a fact that has been proven by the latest UN’s report (United Nations, 2020). Most significantly, this research is a call to action to support female workers to develop a generation of women who are empowered to lead a change in the world.
1.5 Research methodology
The two main research types that exist are primary research and secondary research. The former entails the gathering of first-hand information that directly addresses the research question; while the latter entails the gathering of secondary data that have been collected by other researchers for reasons other than those specified or desired in an existing research purpose (Ajay, 2017). Therefore, this study will be based on primary research to obtain data that are specific and precisely relevant to the research aims and objectives.
While conducting primary research, two main research philosophies exist namely, positivism and interpretivism. The former philosophy addresses the research questions objectively using observable and measurable data; while the latter philosophy addresses the research questions more subjectively forming value-based research where the researcher’s beliefs could intervene in shaping the results and findings (Paterson et al., 2016). The research will use a mix of both philosophical theories to obtain numeric and reliable data that is enriched by experiences, beliefs and value-based conclusions.
Numerical data would be obtained using quantitative data collection techniques. Therefore, a survey will be used to obtain data from women workers in different organisations. The survey method is chosen as it is a cost-effective and time-saving method where data from a suitable sample size could be obtained to have sound and reliable results (Ajay, 2017). On the other hand, such data would be enriched using a qualitative data collection technique. In this case, semi-structured interviews will be conducted with women leaders to have deeper insights into the current support development systems. Semi-structured interviews are beneficial in having an in-depth understanding of a certain topic (Zainal, 2007).
All necessary ethical considerations will be adhered to in this research. According to Bryman, (2015), ethical considerations are crucial as they are a means through which the integrity of research could be affirmed. Therefore, the research will ensure compliance with privacy, confidentiality, consent, data storage, and deception issues. Thus, the participants will be made fully aware of the purpose of the research, will retain their privacy rights and their rights to withdraw at any point. Furthermore, the research will conform to the Race Relations and Equality of Rights Acts to prevent discrimination issues.
1.6 Research outline
The research will include five main chapters. The first chapter is the introduction where background information along with the research aims and objectives will be provided. The second chapter will be the literature review where the research will shed light on work that has been carried out in relevant topics upto date. Thirdly, the methodology chapter will provide a detailed description of the methodology employed in this research along with justifications. The fourth chapter will present the results and analysis of the data collected using qualitative and quantitative techniques. Subsequently, a discussion of these results will be provided in chapter 5 to reflect on the research findings. Based on this discussion, the final chapter will provide conclusions and recommendations.
1.7 Literature Review
Multiple researchers have attempted to introduce frameworks to address how women could advance their careers across different countries amid the many challenges that organisations face today.
Misic-Andric, (2015) introduced an integrative theoretical framework that aimed to study women’s career development. The main reason for using such a framework is to integrate and systemise factors that influence women’s career development. The study considered two main factors namely, personal influence and social inclusion; the rationale is to stress the importance of equally studying individual and organizational factors. The results revealed that women’s career development towards their transformation into strives, accommodators and socialised achievers is affected differently by these factors in different situations.
Goswami, (2019) aimed to investigate the barriers that women entrepreneurs face in an attempt to provide solutions and recommendations for their problems and challenges. The challenges were identified by conducting an extensive review of the literature from the year 1982 to 2018. The findings revealed that the main barriers to women entrepreneurs are attributed to socio-cultural. These include cultural values, gender discrimination, male-dominated societies, increasing family responsibilities and lack of family support, and education. When it comes to education, women generally tend to have lower leadership and managerial skills due to the lack of training, knowledge of technologies, experience, risk-taking ability, and adaptability. Other factors included lack of legislation that ensures the safety of women in the workplace, regulation complications, and lack of the ability to acquire the needed funds. Thus, the research recommended that more efforts should be exerted by governments in the direction of entrepreneurial orientation, awareness, and skills development.
Njiru, (2013) investigated three factors that affect women’s career progression in the corporate sector. These are management perceptions of women’s career advancements, the impacts of work and family responsibilities, and the role of the different human resource management policies and practices. The research was conducted using a case study approach in an attempt to strategise ways through which women could climb the career ladder. The results revealed that all aforementioned factors do influence women’s career progression. Thus, it was recommended that organisations should have more friendly work-life policies such as daycare centres for new mothers to aid women in excelling at their careers.
Schulz and Enslin, (2014) aimed to investigate the female executive perspective on career planning and advancements in organisations in an attempt to describe how organisations could prevent the significant struggles encountered while recruiting and hiring qualified senior leadership given the fact that young boomers will increasingly be leaving the workforce in the next decade. Their results showed that the organisational support of career planning and career advancement programs are primary factors that aid in retaining talented and knowledgeable female managers. Hence, it was recommended that organisations should develop and promote career planning programs, create organisational cultures that are gender-neutral to close the leadership gap at top-executive levels,
Bhide and Tootell, (2018) have noted that sponsoring women, as a career advancement tool, has been increasingly receiving attention in the US lecture; thus, they wanted to investigate the relevancy of the term according to the European perspective. In their study, Bhide and Tootell, (2018) referred to a sponsor as “a person in a senior position who can influence promotion decisions, make available key connections or networks with senior leaders or people in power, increase a sponsees visibility and provide any kind of support needed to move up the career ladder” (p.3). The results showed that sponsoring was perceived differently in Europe according to the context; yet, a few factors seemed to influence these perceptions such as race, ethnicity, gender, prior experiences, and career goals.
Throughout their sixteen years of coaching women, Heath, Flynn, Holt and Faison, (2017) identified that being politically savvy is the most barrier that is encountered by women the most in their career development; such difficulty in manoeuvring work politics is attributed to reasons such as women’s different perceptions of the term politics, different approaches to power and influence, they support collaboration, not a competition and most importantly, women lack access to sponsors. In their most recent book “The influence effect”, Heath, Flynn, Holt and Faison, (2017) aimed to move women past their political concerns through the introduction of a new paradigm that teaches women how to be politically savvy while using strategies of influence rather than engaging in political games to make their voice heard.
Derived by the lack of research that explores the role and effects of women development intervention tools, Gray, De Haan and Bonneywell, (2019) aimed to study how such interventions are being experienced in the real-world context of global organisations. The study focused primarily on coaching-based development programs that were designed to assist women in climbing the corporate ladder and advance their careers. Interestingly, the results of the study revealed that the lack of sponsoring, specifically a senior person, is among the most hindering barriers to the career development of women in organisations. The extent of sponsoring could vary according to the conditions; while some managers might be too busy to provide the support needed, others may lack the experience that would enable them to effectively deliver the message. Other sponsors. may themselves be constraining to the career progression of women unintentionally by limiting participants from broadening their networks. The results also revealed that individual coaching and group coaching are capable of promoting reflection, self-confidence, and focus. As stated by the authors, it allows women to expose their vulnerability and address themes that are personally challenging to them. Furthermore, it was evident that group coaching and individual coaching are complementary in the sense that each assists in deepening up and emanating the knowledge retention and the learning process.
|Credibility of fellow staff, Management style, Gender Inequality, Chauvinism, Sexual harassment, Organizational Structure, Discrimination, and Culture.||(Njiru, 2013).|
|Lack of organisational support, career planning and advancement programmes, and organisational culture.||(Schulz and Enslin, 2014).|
Personal influence & social inclusion
|Being politically savvy, women’s different perceptions of the term politics, different approaches to power and influence, lack access to sponsors.||(Flynn, Holt and Faison, 2017) .|
|Cultural values, gender discrimination, male-dominated societies, increasing family responsibilities, lack of family support, and lack of education||(Goswami, 2019)|
|Enhancing women’s knowledge, building on their capabilities and talents.||(Schulz and Enslin, 2014).|
|Access to key connections and networks and enhanced visibility to sponsees.||(Bhide and Tootell, 2018)|
|Enhancing women’s knowledge, talents, strategic planning capabilities, and leadership approaches.||(Heath, Flynn, Holt and Faison, 2017)|
|Enhancing leadership and managerial skills, higher risk-taking ability and adaptability, and higher opportunities to secure funding.||(Goswami, 2019).|