LEADERSHIP : Escalator women

Dame Jenny Shipley is smiling. She has just launched something she feels passionate about, that will help companies, help women and help New Zealand.
Shipley was one of the women who helped break down the gender barriers of politics, as New Zealand’s first woman prime minister from 1997 to 1999. But as the surge of women leaders has slowed, her ambitions are for the next generation of female leaders.
As chair of its advisory committee, she has just launched the Global Women Breakthrough Programme, an escalator course to speed up women leaders’ maturity in business. The reasons for it were obvious, she says.
“It became very clear that there were two groups – group of women who were about to break through and also group of companies wanting to bring women through so their companies were more able to deal with diverse range of issues in their boardrooms and senior executive teams.”
Shipley says research around the world shows if you have wide range of skills and experience in management, company will perform better.
Global Women determined New Zealand did not have highly focused leadership programme for women in senior leadership and decided to launch 12-month course of coaching, workshops and intensive mentoring that would be available at reasonable cost.
“It’s an escalator for women who are self-identified, or it may be that companies will wish to invest in their women and put them through learning experience for 12-month period.”
The programme’s strength is the willingness of high-level Kiwi women abroad to mentor those with potential, but little experience.
The ‘old boys’ network’ is reality in the senior New Zealand business environment, says Shipley.
“Many women tend not to have had the chance to make these connections. Accelerating the maturing of experienced people should make these women irresistible candidates for management; it will make them extremely attractive contenders.”
She says among the mentors available through the programme are women succeeding globally at the top level of their game. “There are great role models who will share strategies and share experience.”
The programme will be limited to just 20 graduates in any 12 months.
“We are committed to investing in generation of women leaders who can help drive growth.”

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