Articles & Resources

The case for women-only leadership programs

13 June 2024

Women-only leadership development programs produce results.

Some question the role of gender-specific development programming, but at WCT we are steadfast in our commitment. In fact, not only are our programs built for women, they are also built by women.

Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) has been delivering women-only leadership development programming for 30+ years, with great success, yet two questions we get asked time and time again are:

  • a) Do gender specific leadership programs actually work?
  • b) Aren’t they exclusionary?

For 30+ years our answers have been:

  • a) Yes they work. Studies have shown higher retention rates, broader networks and increased confidence amongst women who participate in women-only development programs.
  • b) Women have been the ones excluded for far too long. Women want a safe and non-judgmental space to connect with and learn from peers – an old girls club, if you will.

You see, the reality is that men and women experience work differently. Gender specific programs offer important opportunities for women to become better equipped for the unique challenges of senior leadership (tallest poppy syndrome anyone? likeability penalty) and tackling
gender bias.

Men and women also lead differently, a nuance overlooked in mixed-gender leadership programs but a critical one to consider as we look to the future. A 2017 McKinsey study suggested that women, more frequently than men, exhibit leadership traits that are highly applicable to future global challenges. These Inclusive Leadership behaviours – people development, role modelling, participative decision-making, and so on – are key tenets of many women-only development programs.

Aside from accounting for the differences in how men and women work and lead, women-only program participants often talk about the benefits of simply being around other women to learn from and support one another. This is especially true for participants from male-dominated industries like technology, for example.

At WCT we take our belief in women-only development programming even further by standing behind our ‘built by women, for women’ commitment. As women with lived experience in the technology and communications sectors- as individual contributors, managers, executives and founders- we know the challenges that women face in progressing and unleashing their full potential at work. It isn’t theoretical or hypothetical to us – we’ve been there. To validate our opinions, we also lean on our extensive network of members – women from coast to coast across Canada, representing some of the countries most prominent employers. The result? Content that matters to women in the workplace.

So, if you’ve been contemplating enrolling women in your organization in one of WCT’s programs, or if you are a woman questioning the ROI on enrolling yourself, hopefully, this commentary helps with your decision-making. Women-only programming produces results, especially when those programs are built by women who’ve walked a mile in her shoes.