Leadership training is valuable for anyone—especially for women, who face barriers to leadership opportunities at work. A new program is breaking down barriers.
A recent McKinsey study revealed what too many people have learned firsthand: women face a number of disadvantages in the workplace, including lower hiring and promotion rates, decreased likelihood of receiving advice on how to advance their careers and greater difficulty in securing raises and promotions.
We all have the responsibility to uphold General Motors’ beliefs and values, which include ensuring a respectful and inclusive workplace that enables everyone to reach their full potential. Given the continued public discussions on sexual harassment, GM’s Senior Leadership Team sent an internal message to all employees highlighting the importance of the company’s Workplace Environment Policy. Sexual harassment is not tolerated at GM, and we expect employees to report issues, be transparent and treat each other fairly, professionally and respectfully. Our Non-Retaliation Policy encourages employees to report incidents of harassment and promises no retaliation against individuals who speak up. In early 2018, GM made an online antiharassment training course a requirement for every salaried employee around the globe. GM also has engaged in the in-person training of thousands of employees in antiharassment/antidiscrimination, with a plan to reach thousands more.
GM champions women's success in the workplace and has recently launched Women in Action (WIA), a new global web-based learning program. WIA targets all GM women but is open to both men and women who are looking to enhance their leadership skills. The initiative was developed to address the loss of female representation higher in the leader pipeline. The online course provides quick, convenient access to content that builds leadership competencies at any career stage and addresses some of the unique challenges faced by women in business.
The program began in 2017 with 12 modules covering everything from developing communication skills to taking career risks. The self-paced learning is delivered through readings, videos, self-assessments and on-the-job application activities. In its first year, 6,700 employees registered—roughly a third of the global female population invited to participate. Of those, 600 were men who anecdotally acknowledged that a better understanding of issues impacting women’s leadership development makes them better leaders themselves. We also found that more than 70 groups of 10 to 30 employees informally formed to discuss the modules in mini-workshops or as part of department or work group meetings, furthering impact and engagement of employees.
In early 2018, we expanded WIA to 36 content modules organized into three distinct learning tracks. The tracks include Emerging Leaders, designed to help individual contributors or “next-up” leaders enhance their skills; People Leaders, for those who manage or aspire to manage others; and Executive Leaders, offering a perspective for employees working at higher levels of leadership within GM. As with the original modules, all three tracks are open to any participant, allowing for preparatory growth and self-development for all women and men. The 2018 program officially kicked off on International Women’s Day.