It's not always cool to be a volunteer, or to show that you're interested in leadership. When you throw gender into the mix, putting your hand up can get even knottier. While the lack of women in leadership roles may seem like a self-fulfilling prophesy, some of the solutions for the gender gap at work are quite simple to implement.
Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Exeter have just released a study on who pursues leadership in mixed-gender groups, particularly in male-dominated or -stereotyped industries (e.g., economics or hard sciences). Even in single-gender groups, women "are twice as likely to shy away from leadership roles," according to a press release. Men show similar reluctance in mixed-gender groups in female-stereotyped industries (e.g., nursing or caregiving).
Existing leaders within those groups and industries, however, can get more women excited about stepping up. All they have to do is recognize and promote women's successes. "There is not enough attention paid to the efforts of high-achieving women, partly because they are less likely than men to self-promote their abilities," said study author Jingnan Chen. "If we have more acknowledgement of women's achievements, so their colleagues know what they are doing well, women will be more likely to step up and utilize their leadership skills."
Chen suggests highlighting quantitative achievements, "specific, objective and measurable work such as sales figures or number of projects successfully completed." One of the best things about this tactic is that it's self-perpetuating. Once you have women boosting other women, it's more than likely that more will follow.