There are vast opportunities to improve the performance of engineering organisations through high-calibre leadership. However, people are attracted to engineering because they prefer things over people. They were attracted to engineering not social work. Yet leadership is inherently a social process and organisations are social units.
Any engineer with people skills is leadership gold. Where are the hidden nuggets of leadership gold?
They are your female engineers.
Awesome female leaders do exist in engineering organisations. If you look, you will find them.
Not only do they have great leadership skills, they are also incredibly gritty and determined. They would have to be to have survived this long in a male-dominated environment as a minority.These nuggets of leadership gold are hidden because:
- They don’t look like our stereotypical leader (they are not men).
- Their confidence has been eroded though the multitude of micro frustrations and micro disappointments that come from existing as a minority in a male-dominated workplace.
- They have no role models to follow on how to present as a female leader in engineering.
- They have mastered being invisible by learning to hide their gender so they can fit in; and in the process, they remain unnoticed.
- They are terrible at self-promotion because they (wrongly) believe that if they do a good job, they will be rewarded (this worked at school but does not work in organisations).
- They are operating on an uneven playing field – many are deeply frustrated and 50% of female engineers leave the profession.
- They are isolated and lonely in their organisations.
Awesome female leaders do exist in engineering organisations.It is not necessary to wait until they progress through the “pipeline”. They already have the necessary engineering experience and leadership capabilities.
The brains of men and women are wired differently. Women’s brains are naturally wired towards relationships – they already have well-honed collaborative leadership skills and they excel at mentoring others. They don’t need time – they need nurturing and a little bit of guidance.
Most of your female engineers are operating at least one level below their capability. They could take a step up within six months with the following support:
- Assurance that your organisation believes in them
- A support network of other female engineers
- Individual coaching and mentoring on navigating the challenges of a new role
Dramatic improvements in the quality of leadership and diversity of thinking in engineering organisations can be quickly achieved through supporting these women to leadership roles at minimal cost resulting in a wildly positive return on investment.